CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The former head of an annual Charleston festival will spend nearly two years in federal prison on tax fraud charges linked to her theft of more than $300,000 from the event's books
A judge sentenced former Multifest executive director Deborah Starks Tuesday to 21 months in prison for failing to report more than half a million dollars to the Internal Revenue Service.
Starks admitted last year that she filed at least one false tax return to cover for a five-year embezzlement scheme into the festival.
"I dedicated 23 years of my life to Multifest," Starks said Tuesday before U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver. Her husband, Stephen Starks, started the festival in 1989.
"Never did I want to hurt Multifest in any way. It's always been a labor of love," she said.
Deborah Starks was treasurer of Multifest at the time of the scheme, and was in charge of revenue and expenses. A 2011 tax form indicates that the event gained more than $100,000 in sponsorship revenue that year alone. Some $35,000 of that money came from city and state entities.
Starks admitted that from 2005 to 2010, she sapped about $306,000 from Multifest and failed to report an additional $200,000 to the IRS. She said that she wrote checks to herself and to others, withdrew cash from those checks, and made ATM transactions from Multifest bank accounts. She used much of the money to fuel a gambling addiction, she said.