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Chamber embezzlement defendant appears in court

MARQUETTE — The recently named executive director of the Greater Ishpeming-Negaunee Chamber of Commerce made her first appearance in court Wednesday to face charges of embezzlement from the organization.

Samantha LaJeunesse, 34, stands accused of stealing money from the GINCC, a nonprofit organization that serves businesses in Ishpeming and Negaunee as well as nine nearby townships.

LaJeunesse was charged with three felonies on Nov. 15 in Marquette County District Court. The charges include one count of an agent or trustee embezzling $20,000 or more, one count of using computers to commit a crime, and one count of illegal sale or use of a financial transaction device or credit card, according to online court documents.

Court records say the offense occurred on Aug. 8. LaJeunesse was hired as GINCC director in June. If convicted, she could face up to 20 years in prison and/or fines.

LaJeunesse’s attorney Alex Berger was present at Wednesday’s arraignment.

“Currently we are still reviewing what we intend on doing for the organization as we move forward. Obviously the events that happened have led to the difficult decision to close for the time being,” Nate Heffron, Negaunee city manager, said on behalf of the GINCC. “As we sort through the legal proceedings, what comes from that and other circumstances such as our insurance claim or restitution, we will make a decision on the future of the GINCC in the coming weeks.”

A probable cause conference is scheduled at 2 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 14, and a preliminary exam at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 28.

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