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A 23-year-old woman accused of stealing $14,566 from her employer, Nordic Refrigeration in Butte, pleaded guilty to felony theft Thursday.

District Judge Kurt Krueger accepted the change of plea from Tristina Lancaster of Butte as part of a plea agreement and said he would set a sentencing date later. The crime carries a maximum of 10 years in prison and fine of up to $50,000.

Prosecutors say Lancaster deposited money from the business into an account in her name on eight separate occasions between August 2017 and this past March. It totaled just over $14,560.

Specifically, she put her private account on a debit/credit card reader at the business, prosecutors say.

A police officer told Lancaster that a Nordic accountant had discovered her account and where the money had been deposited. She then stated, “Ya, I did it,” according to prosecutors.

When asked if she was fired for the theft, she told the officer she was terminated for not showing up for work and being a poor employee.

She was previously free on $5,000 bail and will remain so at least until sentencing.

Woman guilty of criminal endangerment

A woman who almost ran someone off Highway 2 in Butte before crashing herself pleaded guilty to one count of criminal endangerment.

Jewel Erin Thomas, 28, faced three counts of felony criminal endangerment but pleaded guilty to just one in a plea deal with prosecutors. Judge Krueger ordered a presentence investigation and will set a sentencing date after it is complete.

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The crime carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and fine of up to $50,000.

Thomas was speeding down Highway 2 around 10 a.m. on May 5, almost hitting at least two other vehicles, prosecutors say. She crashed and was thrown from her car before it landed upside down in a creek.

One of the other drivers, an off-duty Helena police officer, said Thomas almost ran him and his son off the road. He stopped at the crash scene and said Thomas began crying and apologizing and said she had been drinking and smoking marijuana before the crash.

The officer told her he was glad she could apologize now instead of at his kid’s funeral, according to prosecutors.

Another motorist said he was driving 60 mph on Highway 2 when he noticed Thomas’s car approaching. He sped up to 80 mph but said she was going even faster and tried to pass him when there were double yellow lines at the top of a hill crest.

Thomas was taken to the hospital after the crash and had suffered a collapsed lung. She was allowed to remain free on bond after Thursday's court hearing.

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