Expectant mother jailed for embezzling
Written by BILL RYAN Sentinel Staff Writer
Wednesday, 06 July 2011 08:41
The Perrysburg woman who was found guilty of embezzling cash funds from the Fort Meigs YMCA in Perrysburg, was ordered to jail on Tuesday afternoon.
|Sara Perna faces Judge Pollex during sentencing for embezzling from the Perrysburg YMCA. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
Sara Perna, 29, was convicted of theft after a jury trial in May. She must spend 80 days in the Wood County jail, followed by a period of 60 days of electronic home monitoring.
The unusual time frame was to allow Perna to be released from jail approximately two weeks before the due date for her to give birth.
Judge Robert Pollex issued the sentence, following closely the recommendation from Melissa Schiffel, the assistant Wood County prosecuting attorney who handled the case.
She must also pay $16,043 in restitution to the YMCA of Greater Toledo, and serve 200 hours of community service. The judge also reserved 17 months in prison should Perna fail to follow all the conditions of her three years of community control sanctions, which included a minimum payment of $100 per month.
Defense attorney Jeff Simpson unsuccessfully argued she should not spend any time in custody.
Among his reasons was that she was in her last trimester of pregnancy.
"She is now not the same person," Simpson said, adding she has further changed since the trial. "She is now ready to be a mother."
He called her actions a "crime of opportunity and need," but added she is more stable financially, noting her marriage.
Simpson told the judge it is not the goal of sentencing to punish his client. "She is not someone who needs to be removed from society This was a financial crime, only a financial crime."
Referring to the prison system the defense attorney said, "It is called the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, not the Ohio Department of Punishment."
He stressed his client did not need to be incarcerated because she has changed and is now "more stable and in a better position." Schiffel and the judge obviously disagreed.
"The sentence needs to punish and deter her and others from committing such crimes in the future," Schiffel said, echoing comments made by Pollex and other judges at most felony sentences.
In asking for the jail time, the prosecuting attorney noted the severe economic impact on the YMCA, as well as her position of trust which was violated by stealing cash funds.
"She has shown no remorse," Schiffel told the judge, noting her original statements, her testimony at trial and her pre-sentence investigation.
Almost immediately after hearing Schimmel's comments, Perna was given the opportunity by the judge to offer any comments. She declined to comment. Remaining silent without an apology nor explanation.
Pollex called the prosecution's suggested sentence "reasonable" and said furloughs would be granted for Perna's doctor visits during her pregnancy. However, the state would not provide transportation to those visits, family or friends would have to pick her up and return her to the jail, allowing only a modest amount of travel time.
"I find the actions of the defendant were due to her relationship of trust ... which she violated," Pollex said. "Her actions were a breech of that trust in a consistent manner, which was reprehensible."
The theft charge is a fourth-degree felony which carries a maximum penalty of six to 18 months in prison.
During the trial various witnesses testified regarding cash payments made for childcare at the YMCA, yet no cash was ever deposited into the bank accounts, only checks and credit cards.
YMCA records indicated more than $3,800 taken in 2007, more than $7,300 in 2008 and nearly $4,900 in 2009.
Deputies from the Wood County Sheriff's Department immediately placed her in custody.