The 48-year-old Robert David Lee appeared in a Little Rock courtroom on Monday (August 6). His guilty plea to one felony count of theft by deception, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is the result of a deal with prosecutors, who agreed to drop five charges of filing fraudulent income tax returns on behalf of the orchestra from 2002 through 2006.
The embezzlement was discovered in 2005 when some financial irregularities triggered an audit. The Arkansas Symphony's then-executive director, William Vickery, said at the time that most of the missing funds would be recovered or replaced by insurance and that the theft would not affect the orchestra's operations.
Lee, who had worked for the Arkansas Symphony for 14 years and was, at $42,500 a year, one of the orchestra's best-paid employees, stole the money between 2001 and 2005, when he was placed on unpaid leave. He was arrested in January 2006, according to the Democrat-Gazette.
Symphony officials and prosecutors say that Lee used the money for routine purchases, mostly made with a company credit card, of everyday goods and services for himself and his family.
Prosecutors have recommended a sentence, presumably settled with Lee as part of the plea deal, of ten years in prison and $24,000 in restitution as well as a $136,000 civil judgment in favor of the orchestra, according to the Democrat-Gazette. Sentencing has been delayed until January, so that Lee can help his daughter finish high school.