Utah Valley University - 2017

Utah Valley University’s entrance sign is pictured before Utah Valley University’s 76th Commencement Ceremony on Thursday, May 4, 2017, in Orem.

With a tense frown, Judge Derek Pullan glanced from the court documents on his desk to a former Utah Valley University employee standing in front of him.

“You stole from a public university,” he said. “To speak frankly … I question why you shouldn’t go to prison for that.”

Jennifer Clegg, 43, wiped away tears and clasped her hands in front of her.

She had been fired from UVU in April 2016 after she and her husband stole more than $380,000 from the university to pay for travel expenses and a private theater business.

Two months ago, she pleaded guilty to communications fraud and attempted communications fraud, both third-degree felonies. Jennifer Clegg also paid back her share of the stolen funds to the university before the criminal case began.

“I’m sorry for what I did and I’m ready to move to the next step,” she said during her sentencing in 4th District Court on Tuesday.

A few minutes later, to the astonishment of her attorney and family members, Pullan sentenced Jennifer Clegg to serve four months at the Utah County Jail.

“This is a significant offense against the people of Utah,” he said. “It’s hard for me to believe you weren’t motivated by getting caught to pay the money back.”

Jennifer Clegg covered her face as bailiffs led her away from the courtroom. She whispered an apology to a family member who rose from her seat and attempted to talk to Clegg as she was handcuffed and escorted to a holding cell.

The judge also sentenced Jennifer Clegg to serve 60 days on GPS monitor, pay restitution and complete 100 hours of community service when she is released from jail.

She will also serve on probation instead of spending zero to five years in prison for each count.

“She was able to commit those crimes because she was trusted,” prosecuting attorney Jessica Smith said. “Her supervisors trusted her, they didn’t monitor her closely.”

Defense attorney Brixton Hakes argued Jennifer Clegg showed “significant remorse” and paid back the stolen money a few days after her position was terminated.

“This is something she did and went back and paid before she knew of any investigation,” he said.

Charges show Jennifer Clegg worked in various positions at UVU for more than 15 years, including as financial manager for the College of Technology and Computing.

During that time, she and her husband also managed a nonprofit organization called the American Student Association of Community Colleges.

The organization hosts semi-annual training conferences and an annual leadership conference attended by community college student governments, including UVU students.

In March 2015, Jennifer Clegg stole a pre-signed form from her supervisor to pay for $2,270 unauthorized travel expenses for one of the conferences. She also billed UVU for the annual spring conference costing $90,730.

Investigators conducted an audit and discovered Jennifer Clegg made three payments of $66,820 to the Liaison Hotel in Washington, D.C. using unauthorized funds from UVU.

“Clegg’s supervisor was interviewed over the phone and stated that he never approved the payments for the Liaison Hotel and was not even aware of them,” according to charges.

Another $16,341 was stolen between November 2015 to March 2016 when Clegg used six university credit cards to pay for renovations of a family theater business in American Fork.

Her husband, Phil Clegg, worked as Associate Dean of Students and Director of Student Leadership and Involvement at the same time. He resigned from the position in May 2016.

Charges state he stole newspaper reimbursements from the university, created a fake student organization to steal funds from other student club accounts, paid for a vacation to New York with students and authorized non-existent students to attend a conference.

The total loss to the university due to those schemes cost more than $72,000.

He is charged with four counts of communications fraud and one count of pattern of unlawful activity, all second-degree felonies. He pleaded not guilty in October and a jury trial is set for Feb. 2020.

An attorney for Phil Clegg did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

A spokesman for UVU declined to comment on the case.

The Cleggs owned Towne Cinemas in American Fork, a business that had existed for 75 years and sold movie tickets for $1.50. The theater closed in December.

The building had been owned by Kazaab, Inc., which was registered to Jennifer Clegg, according to documents from the Utah Division of Corporations and Commercial Code. It is now owned by Magna Properties LLC, which is registered out of a P.O. box in Salt Lake City.

The space will become Stage Left, a venue to life, music and food, according to the Towne Cinemas website.

Braley Dodson covers health and education for the Daily Herald.

Ashley Stilson covers crime, courts and breaking news for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at 801-344-2556 or astilson@heraldextra.com.

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