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January 05, 2016

Ex-Field Museum Employee Acknowledges $410,000 Theft

A former Field Museum staffer admitted in federal court Monday to stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Chicago institution during her nearly 11-year employment, the Chicago Tribune reports. Caryn Benson, 38, pleaded guilty to a single count of embezzling $33,014 from the natural-history museum — funds discovered missing in the first four months of 2014 — and, as part of a plea deal, acknowledged taking about $377,000 in previous years.

Prosecutors said Ms. Benson, who was fired in April 2014, kept payments she collected from museum visitors who signed up for memberships at the door, as well as cash attendees at special events paid for drink tickets. She was charged last month, days after the Field disclosed a fund diversion of more than $903,000.

Federal authorities and museum officials contend Ms. Benson was responsible for the full loss, but her lawyer said her financial records jibe with her admission to taking about $410,000. Prosecutors recommended a 37-month sentence. The museum said it has instituted stricter controls over cash transactions.