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The former chief financial officer of the taxpayer-owned Heber Light & Power has pleaded guilty to reduced charges, admitting that he stole thousands of dollars from the company.

Anthony Furness, 55, pleaded guilty Wednesday in 4th District Court to third-degree felony attempted theft by deception. A charge of possession of a forgery writing or device was dismissed as part of a plea deal.

According to plea agreement documents, Furness has agreed to pay over $51,000 in restitution in the case. He faces up to five years in prison when he is sentenced on Feb. 25.

Furness was accused of billing more than $50,000 in personal expenses to a company account between February 2010 and May 2013, according to a probable cause statement filed by the Utah Attorney General's Office, which is prosecuting the case.

Before coming to Utah, Furness had been the vice president for finance at Saint John Energy in New Brunswick, Canada, where he was accused of having defrauded that company of at least $5,000, Sgt. Jay Henderson of the Saint John Police confirmed last summer.

Furness was fired from his position at Saint John Energy in 2006, less than a year before he was hired at Heber Light & Power. After the criminal allegations surfaced in Utah, many citizens in the Heber area expressed outrage that Furness was hired while under investigation for a crime in Canada.

"People here are just amazed," Heber City Councilwoman Heidi Franco said last June. "They're flabbergasted."

Heber Light & Power is jointly owned by the taxpayers of Heber City, Midway and Charleston. The company's board, which is responsible for hiring, is composed of the mayors of the three cities, as well as two council members from Heber City and a non-voting Wasatch County council member.

Connie Tatton was mayor of Midway from 2006 to 2014 and served on the board of Heber Light & Power when Furness was hired in 2006.

"He had the qualifications. To find an accountant with utility experience is not the easiest thing to do," Tatton said last year. "His past conduct in Canada was not part of his records, and it was only later that we found out that there were similar incidents."

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