ORLANDO, Fla., (WOFL FOX 35) - On Friday, a group of ladies from the American Legion Auxiliary walked out of federal court, disappointed that a former secretary treasurer got sentenced to 33 months in jail. They wanted a much longer sentence, for a friend-turned-thief who destroyed their trust.
Robin Briere was sentenced for stealing more than $657,000 from the American Legion Auxiliary, while she was secretary treasurer of the Central Florida chapter.
Peggy Hearlson, Finance Chairmen for the American Legion Auxiliary, says, "It's unexplainable. You go from crying, to being mad and then just sad. There's nothing you can say about it because someone's violated your trust."
Volunteer Carol Pirone-Udell says it's unbelievable, adding, "She bought jewelry, she bought furniture, she bought everything. She didn't pay the bills, she had a life with our money that we worked hard to give our veterans."
Even Briere admits what she did was horrible.
"There's no way to put it into words how I feel and how disappointed in myself -- it's not who I am, it's not who I am. Robin, all the members, they just want to know why? I wish I understood it all, I really do. It's all been devastating for me. I wish I had a better answer for them."
Briere told a judge she was depressed over the death of her husband and blamed her medication.
Her colleagues said she did a great job hiding her scheme, but it all came to an end when a new treasurer took over and got a look at her books.
Hearlson says, "It's hard to believe at first. I didn't believe it till I was holding the evidence in my hand."
Now, they're doing damage control, trying to convince potential donors the money they raise really does go to help veterans and not into someone's pocket.
"It puts a mistrust to the public, because these people who work for the American Legion Auxiliary, they cater to the public to help raise money to go ahead to support the veterans and their families," said Michael McDaniel, of the American Legion.
The Auxiliary says they finally have an audit committee to prevent this from happening again.
Briere says, "I'm sorry.Will you be able to pay any of it back? I will do my very best till the day I die to undo what has happened." B
riere will surrender on December 14.