As a graduate of the Vermont Institute of Artisan Cheese (VIAC) Cheesemaker Certification program, I was surprised to see this story pop up in my google alerts today. As I’ve discussed previously, VIAC closed its doors on the public education program right after I’d finished, and at the time I heard stories about there being some financial improprieties involved. Well, now the Burlington Free Press has the story, and its a doozy. I remember Jody Farnham (@_Jody_Farnham) from my time there, she was always friendly and passionate about cheese, and I have her book on my shelf, so I was genuinely shocked to hear that she was the person involved:
A former University of Vermont employee has agreed to plead guilty to a federal charge of embezzlement — a case that began, officials said, with the receipt 18 months ago of an anonymous letter.
Jody Farnham, a UVM employee who provided administrative support to the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese, embezzled at least $185,000 during a six-year period ending in late 2012, according to a charging document on file at U.S. District Court in Burlington. She is accused of having done so by altering tuition checks from enrollees in the cheesemaking program to make herself a co-payee, the document alleges, and then depositing the checks in her own bank account.
Farnham also is accused of embezzling cash tuition payments given to her by enrollees and of using UVM credit cards to make personal purchases. This is the latest in a series of embezzlement cases to emerge in Vermont public institutions during the past several years.
In an agreement signed Nov. 25, 2013, and filed in court this week, Farnham agreed to plead guilty to the allegations. The charging document, dated Sunday, includes a forfeiture notice, under which Farnham, if convicted, would have to pay back $185,000. Asked about the lag between the plea agreement’s signing and the Monday court filing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Waples declined comment.
A listed phone number for Farnham could not be found Wednesday. A phone message and an email to her attorney, Robert Hemley, were not returned.
The Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese provided educational, research and consulting assistance to cheesemakers and offered courses and workshops in artisan cheesemaking, according to the charging document. Farnham was employed by UVM’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences as an office program support specialist. Her annual salary in 2011-12 was $30,649, according to UVM’s website.
Farnham was co-author with Marc Druart of “The Joy of Cheesemaking: The Ultimate Guide to Understanding, Making and Eating Fine Cheese” (Sky Horse Publishing, 2011). The book jacket identifies her as the program coordinator and administrative director for the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese, and Druart as the institute’s master cheesemaker.
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