ELLSWORTH — A former Jackson Laboratory employee was ordered to serve three years probation and pay $20,000 in restitution after pleading guilty to making unauthorized credit card purchases while she was in charge of the lab-sponsored Maine State Science Fair.
Billie Jo Cunningham, 44, of Trenton pleaded guilty May 20 in Hancock County Unified Criminal Court to a charge of theft by unauthorized taking or transfer. Cunningham additionally was sentenced to three years in prison, with all three years suspended.
Cunningham was indicted in April 2015 by a Hancock County grand jury on a single count of theft for using a Jackson Laboratory credit card to buy items she planned to use to start her own nonprofit business similar to the state science fair, Hancock County District Attorney Matthew Foster said at the time. Those items included computers, office equipment, cameras, video equipment and legal services pertaining to the start-up of the fair. She also used the card to buy groceries and alcohol and to pay for car repairs, prosecutors have said. The purchases were made between May 10, 2012, and Sept. 6, 2013.
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, according to Foster.