Ordered to pay more than $81,000 in restitution, a former Kansas mayor was sentenced Tuesday to 10 months in prison after pleading guilty to stealing from a food bank designed to help impoverished citizens. The former mayor also served as the executive director of the food bank before resigning.
Hired in 2011, Jeremy Farmer served as the executive director at Just Food, a food bank in Douglas County that provides people with frozen meat and fresh produce as well as bread and food donated from community drives according to its website. In 2013, Farmer began embezzling thousands of dollars from the food bank by accessing Just Food’s bank accounts.
Two days after Farmer resigned from his position as executive director of Just Food in August 2015, he also resigned as mayor of Lawrence, Kansas. Farmer stepped down as both the executive director and member of the City Commission after records disclosed that he had failed to pay over $50,000 in state and federal payroll taxes on behalf of the food bank.
“That he was a public figure, the mayor of Lawrence at the time he committed his crime, coupled with the fact that his crime was committed against a charitable institution warrants a sentence of imprisonment,” according to a response filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Hathaway. “A sentence of no incarceration would fail to take into account punishment and deterrence. The government recommends, as it agreed to do, a sentence of 10 months in prison, no fine and restitution in the amount of $81,446.57.”
“I can’t express how deeply sorry I am for my irresponsible, reckless, selfish behavior when I was employed at Just Food,” Farmer stated during his sentencing hearing. “I feel terrible, and I do every day.”
After initially pleading not guilty, Farmer later pled guilty to one count of interstate transportation of stolen funds in August 2016. Facing up to 10 years in prison and a potential $250,000 fine, the former mayor was sentenced to 10 months in federal prison and fined more than $81,000 on Tuesday.
According to Executive Director Elizabeth Keever, Just Food serves between 150 and 200 families. Instead of expecting restitution from Farmer, the food bank’s board of directors continues to give thanks to the growing support from the community in reducing hunger.
“If I didn’t have Just Food, I wouldn’t eat the last two weeks of the month,” Just Food client Jennifer Coffman told the Lawrence Journal-World. “He took food out of people’s mouths. People who need it. People who would starve without it.”