ELLSWORTH — A former Jackson Laboratory employee is accused of using an institutional credit card to purchase more than $24,000 in services and goods that she planned to use to start her own nonprofit business, according to district attorney Matthew Foster.
Billie Jo Cunningham, 43, of Trenton is accused of making the credit card purchases between May 10, 2012 and Sept. 6, 2013, while employed at the Jackson Lab as the person in charge of the Maine State Science Fair. The lab organizes and sponsors the fair.
A Hancock County grand jury indicted Cunningham April 9 on one count of class B theft by unauthorized taking.
Cunningham originally was hired as an animal care technician at the lab. She became an administrative assistant with the science fair program and, during a change in supervisors, essentially “promoted herself” to the position of head of the science fair, Foster said.
“She told the new supervisor she was more in charge than she actually was,” Foster explained.
Cunningham allegedly used the credit card to buy computers, office equipment, cameras, video equipment, groceries and alcohol, to pay for car repairs and for legal services pertaining to the start-up of a nonprofit science fair of her own, Foster said.
The purchases were approved by Cunningham’s supervisor but that person “didn’t know what she was approving,” Foster said.
At some point, Jackson Lab officials questioned whether Cunningham should be in charge of the science fair and she was returned to her job as administrative assistant, Foster said. Cunningham is accused of using the credit card over a 16-month period, but the misuse escalated at this time.
“It really picked up when she was demoted,” Foster said.
Class B crimes are punishable by up to ten years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine.