Kimberly Richeson last week pleaded guilty to stealing $11,000 from a fund set up to defray a friend's cancer costs.

Kimberly Richeson last week pleaded guilty to stealing $11,000 from a fund set up to defray a friend's cancer costs.

Richeson, 44, of 6686 Evening St., was sentenced to 30 days in jail and five years probation and ordered to pay $9,000 in restitution for stealing from a fund she had set up to help Maria Herren, 46, who has terminal breast cancer.

Both women are Worthington mothers who met when their children were on the Worthington swim team.

Franklin County Common Pleas Judge David Cain said Richeson, a mother of four, could be sent to prison for 18 months if she violates terms of her probation.

The one count of theft stems from the case that came to light last November after Herren and her husband, Phil, discovered that Richeson had been helping herself to money in the account set up to help the Herrens with medical costs.

Herren was diagnosed with stage-4 cancer in September 2010 and was told she would have three to six months to live. In February 2011, Richeson set up a fund called Maria's Garden, named for Herren's favorite hobby.

A spaghetti dinner at the Griswold Center raised nearly $18,000. Richeson was a part-time employee of the center, where she worked with senior citizens.

Richeson told her friend the amount raised was approximately $10,000. The account was in Richeson's name, and she could access the money with a debit card.

The Herrens used approximately $7,000 of the money for expenses. When Maria Herren approached Richeson last fall, requesting more money, she was told it was gone. Phil Herren then checked the account, discovering the $18,000 was gone. Records showed Richeson spent the funds on personal expenses, including fast food, home maintenance, a family trip and Kroger gift cards.

Phil then asked for restitution and an apology. Richeson offered to place a check for $11,000 in the Herrens' mailbox. The couple declined, saying they feared she would claim it had been stolen. When Richeson declined to meet Phil at the bank, the couple decided to press charges.

Pressing charges was difficult, but Maria Herren said she owed it to the community, which also had been betrayed.

"I'm so overwhelmed with gratitude and the way people have treated me," she told ThisWeek. "The friends who have come forward have been so steadfast and kind. I've had a lot of things happen in my life. To have justice served is just the best. In the end, it didn't matter about the money."

The money comes in handy, though, she said. It allowed her to receive treatment Jan. 30. She receives chemotherapy and other treatments to keep the tumors from growing. The primary tumor has disappeared, she said. "It just means more time."