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Former hockey team office manager sentenced for embezzlement

October 20, 2020 GMT

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — A former office manager for the Rapid City Rush has been sentenced to more than three years in federal prison for stealing $700,000 from the professional hockey team.

Jennifer Durham, 42, pleaded guilty in July to tax evasion and two counts of wire fraud. She worked for the team from 2008 through June 2019, where she was responsible for maintaining accounting records, creating financial reports, and recording and depositing cash receipts.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Viken on Monday sentenced Durham to 37 months in prison and ordered her to pay back nearly $1 million, including $700,000 to the Rush and more than $186,000 to the Internal Revenue Service, the Rapid CIty Journal reported.

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Prosecutors said she began to steal from the company around February 2010. An investigation began in October 2019 when new team owners, Spire Hockey, discovered “inconsistencies and irregularities” in some bookkeeping.

Defense attorney John Murphy said Durham is guilty but committed her crimes within the context of the company’s “culture of corruption.”. She’s become a “scapegoat” for all of the Rush’s financial woes, Murphy said.

IRS special agent Brian Pickens testified that the team gave under-the-table bonuses to players from 2010-2013, which broke league rules and put players in criminal jeopardy.