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Former KOBI bookkeeper gets prison for six-figure embezzlement

A longtime bookkeeper was sentenced to prison after admitting she embezzled more than half a million dollars from a Southern Oregon television station, along with thousands from a relative with Alzheimer’s disease.

Anne Knifong of Gold Hill was sentenced Thursday in Jackson County Circuit Court to two years in prison and ordered to repay hundreds of thousands of dollars to California Oregon Broadcasting Inc., the parent company of KOBI-TV, after pleading guilty to aggravated theft and aggravated identity theft charges.According to Deputy District Attorney Zori Cook, who prosecuted the case, Knifong stole more than $700,000 from the television station between 2012 and 2017; however, some of the thefts occurred outside the statute of limitations.

In court, Cook called the thefts a “deep betrayal,” according to KOBI video of Thursday morning’s hearing.

“The money is one thing, but they do feel a deep betrayal of their trust,” Cook said. “Annie Knifong was loved by everyone at KOBI.”

“In speaking with them, that was the thing that stuck with them,” Cook later added.

Justin Rosas, Knifong’s lawyer, called his client’s behavior a “terrible mistake” that Knifong deeply regrets.

“She also loved them, but that doesn’t make it better, and she still needs this level of accountability,” Rosas said.

Knifong did not make a statement during the hearing, but Rosas said what motivated the embezzlement was a family situation “that greatly increased” the amount of money Knifong’s family needed to pay.

Rosas described a special needs child in the family, Knifong’s mother needing late-in-life medical care and a change in her husband’s financial situation.

“The family’s finances kind of fell apart, but again, that doesn’t make it OK,” Rosas said.

After accepting Knifong’s guilty pleas to counts of first-degree criminal mistreatment, aggravated first-degree theft and aggravated identity theft, Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Laura Cromwell sentenced Knifong to 24 months in prison and ordered her to pay $536,569 in restitution — a figure that includes $25,000 to her mother.

At sentencing, Cromwell said prison was “certainly appropriate” in Knifong’s case “just due to the sheer volume of money that was taken” and “trust that was violated.”

Cromwell said she hopes after prison to see Knifong “work your tail off to make things as good as you can.”

“Even though you’re nice on the outside, there’s something very deep going on in there,” Cromwell said.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.

Anna Marie Knifong