CORUNNA – Judge Gerald Lostracco said he wanted to send a message to any other potential embezzlers Friday during an Owosso woman’s sentencing on felony embezzlement charges.
Lisa Reed, 35, of Owosso, received a year in the Shiawassee County Jail, four years probation, 275 hours of community service and must pay nearly $160,000 in restitution. She admitted in August to taking about $53,000 from November 2002 to July 2008 while she worked as the office manager for local dentist Dr. Sheryl Harr-Thompson.
“This was not a spur of the moment event,” Lostracco said in Shiawassee Circuit Court. “It was an extreme use of bad judgment. It went on year after year. If someone comes into this courtroom and is asked to describe you, there’s a number of things that come into mind – thief, crook, embezzler and now a convicted felon.”
Reed was charged with embezzling more than $50,000 but less than $100,000 – which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and/or a $25,000 fine, or three times the amount embezzled, whichever is greater.
Lostracco ordered Reed pay $159,860.97 in restitution to Dr. Harr-Thompson.
Defense attorney John J. Homola said Reed agreed to pay back the $53,000 she admitted to taking during her August plea hearing. Homola said the nearly $160,000 is a figure that came up during the Reed’s presentence investigation.
There will be a restitution hearing to figure out exactly how much she’ll repay.
“We just want to make sure the figure is accurate,” Homola said. “It’s up to the victim to provide proof of her losses.”
Lostracco said he had dozens of letters in support of Dr. Harr-Thompson and the damage Reed’s criminal activity had on her family practice.
Dr. Harr-Thompson read part of her five-page letter in court before Lostracco cut her off. She said a computer forensic investigator found Reed spent at least four hours per day on Web sites such as www.singleparent.com, match.com and myspace.com.
“When the practice’s revenue first dropped off, I felt I just had to work harder,” Dr. Harr-Thompson read, adding she had to drop a pension plan and any raises she provided for her employees.
Assistant Shiawassee Prosecutor Deana Finnegan said Reed has not paid any restitution to Dr. Harr-Thompson.
When visiting Judge Robert Ransom continued Reed’s bond in August, the assumption was she was going to get a job or work at her parents’ farm for $8 per hour.
Homola said she lost a job at a factory and had $82 to go toward restitution.
“I believe Ms. Reed has deceived this court,” Finnegan said. “She was not working at the family farm.”
Reed wept during her courtroom apology to Dr. Harr-Thompson, the dentist office employees and to her family.
“Your criminal conduct certainly has a lot of ripple effect beyond the individual,” Lostracco said. “Unfortunately your family and your children are going to be experiencing those effects.”
Homola also said the only other charge on Reed’s record was an embezzlement case 12 years ago. Lostracco said that charge started as a felony before it was reduced to a misdemeanor.
“Ms. Reed could’ve went to prison today,” Homola said. “I think Judge Lostracco sent a clear message that this kind of behavior is not going to be tolerated in Shiawassee County.”