Former ECHO Housing Executive Director sentenced to 2 years on embezzling charges

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EVANSVILLE, Ind (WEHT) After a delay earlier this year, former ECHO Housing Executive Director Stephanie Tenbarge is sentenced Tuesday. She was sentenced to 2 years probation and must pay $90,000 in restitution. Prosecutors said she should spend at least some time behind bars, Tenbarge will not spend time in federal prison since the judge disagreed.

Tenbarge was arrested in 2019 and accused of embezzling more than $140,000 from ECHO Housing to purchase personal items, services and property. In August 2020 she pleaded guilty to three counts of theft.

Her attorneys claim Tenbarge was paying herself back for health insurance expenses, mileage she used for work, and work related items and services she allegedly paid for with her own money.

Josh Orem, one of Tenbarge’s lawyers said they aren’t surprised with the outcome of her sentencing.

“Certainly happy for the two years probation. Certainly glad that she’s not having a federal prison sentence and she’s prepared to make the restitution payments so all in all I think we are happy to be where we are,” said Orem. “Hopefully she’ll be able to continue with her education and she really has a heart to help the community so I think she’s hopeful that with that continued education she’ll be able to give back to her community.”

Now that Tenbarge has been sentenced, the current ECHO Housing Executive Director Chris Metz said they are glad to have this behind them so they can keep focusing on helping those who need it most.

“We absolutely respect the court’s decision today. They carefully reviewed all of the available information and made a very reasonable decision so we are grateful to see the matter resolved,” Metz explained. “There are over 500 individuals every night in this community who don’t have a place to call home and we are able to refocus 100% of our attention, our efforts, and our energy at that mission which is critical.”

Metz said ECHO Housing pressed on through all of this.

“There were no services lost, nothing fell to a decline at ECHO Housing. We were able to stay on mission the entire time which is a testament to the team of ECHO Housing and maybe what we are most proud of,” said Metz.

Tenbarge has about 30 days to pay more than $90,000 to ECHO Housing and insurance companies for the money that was taken.

(This story was originally published on March 16, 2021)

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