Brandon Benker, the 28-year-old accountant who looted the Penrod Society of more than $380,000 in 2008, received a five-year sentence Tuesday afternoon.
Marion County Superior Court Judge Stanley Kroh sentenced Benker to three years in prison and two years in a Community Corrections program, in which he may be assigned to work release or home detention.
Benker pleaded guilty to theft, a Class C felony, to avoid a trial. He was originally charged with theft and forgery felonies that carried a maximum sentence of eight years.
More than a dozen Penrod Society members attended the sentencing and heard how Benker had used his position as treasurer in 2008 to write himself checks and redeem a $50,000 certificate of deposit. He also took more than $80,000 of the stolen funds to Las Vegas for a gambling spree.
“I know it’s hard to believe,” Benker said Tuesday as he stood and apologized. “My life was spinning out of control at the time. It was my intention to win the money and pay it back to you.”
Benker’s attorney, Jim Voyles, argued for a sentence of rehabilitation because of his client's gambling addiction. Benker turned himself in last year after spending time at a rehab facility in Minnesota, Voyles said.
Kroh agreed that Benker was a candidate for rehabilitation, but he was troubled by the fact that Benker committed a series of thefts from the society over a series of nine months, starting in February of 2008.
“It’s not just a one-time thing," the judge said. "You took repeated steps to take a huge amount of money.”
The Penrod Society is a group of young professional men who host the annual Penrod Arts Fair each September on the grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The money raised from the fair supports local arts organizations.
As treasurer, Benker was in charge of depositing the cash proceeds of the event on Sept. 6, 2008, prosecutor Jody Hilger said during the hearing. Accompanied by an off-duty police officer, Benker took a duffel bag full of $124,000 in cash to a night depository, but he managed to sneak away with $83,000. The next day, he checked into the Mirage Casino in Las Vegas and gambled away $65,000.
Benker owes the Penrod Society a total of $381,742.57. He had been ordered to pay $2,000 by Tuesday's sentencing, plus $200 a month while on probation, home detention or work release.
Benker's legal problems are not completely over. On May 25, he faces a probation violation hearing in Hamilton County, where he committed a drunk-driving offense in 2007.