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Local

Comic book thief, embezzler owes nearly $400,000

Former paralegal pleads guilty to robbing her boss, and Sterling author

STERLING – Three hundred ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and forty-six dollars.

And 43 cents.

That’s how much restitution a Sterling woman will be required to pay when she is sentenced Jan. 23 for embezzling nearly $300,000 over more than 7 years from the law office for which she worked, and for filching and selling vintage comic books belonging to the town’s most famous native son.

Trisha J. Clemens, 37, pleaded guilty this afternoon in Whiteside County court to two counts of felony theft, one for stealing deposits, not reporting cash payments and otherwise cooking the books at Miller, Lancaster & Walker from Dec. 3, 2007, through May 18, 2015; the other for dipping into the comic book collection of famed fantasy author Terry Brooks, who stashed it at the firm where he once worked as an attorney.

At a maximum, Clemens faces 4 to 15 years in prison on each count, plus a fine of up to $25,000, 2 years of probation and restitution – although the nature of the crime also leaves her eligible for up to 4 years probation – plus restitution.

The petite, dark-haired thief, who is free on bond, owes the firm $291,153.43 and Brooks, 73, of Seattle, $108,793.

The embezzlement case was filed Sept. 10, 2015; she was charged with the comic-book thefts in a separate case on April 21, 2016.

Brooks, who graduated from Sterling High School in 1962, started working as an attorney in Sterling in 1969 and within 5 years became a partner at the firm that preceded Miller, Lancaster & Walker.

He published the first book of his “Shannara” trilogy, “Sword of Shannara,” in 1977. After 17 years and two more successful books, he left the law and became a full-time writer. It was during that transition that he left the collection in the firm’s custody.

More than two dozen “Shannara” tales have been recognized as New York Times bestsellers over a writing span of more than 40 years. A Shannara TV series ran on MTV in 2016 and a second season aired on Spike this year. He also is the author of the “Landover” series, and “The Word and Void” trilogy.

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