Woman sentenced for embezzlement PDF Print E-mail
Written by By BILL RYAN/Sentinel Staff Writer   
Tuesday, 14 July 2009 13:11
Janet Lee Hess, 39, of Helena, was ordered Tuesday to pay more than $128,400 in restitution for embezzlement from a former employer, H&R Block in Bowling Green.
Hess avoided prison time but was ordered by Wood County Common Pleas Court Judge Robert Pollex to spend the next six months in the work release program at Wood County jail. He also placed a five-year prison sentence over her head should she violate the conditions of five years of community control.
Pollex told Hess his intention was to hand down a two-year prison sentence, however after hearing from Hess, her attorney, three victims and the prosecutor in the case, Melissa Freeman, he was “willing to give the defendant an opportunity to show she is sincere about the restitution.”
Judith McGraw, owner of the South Main Street business, was the first person to provide a victim impact statement.
In addition to the criminal case, McGraw had a civil suit against Hess involving repayment of a loan. That case was settled prior to the criminal sentencing.
“My business suffered, my income suffered,” McGraw told the court.
She outlined how Hess’ actions cost the company revenue in the necessity to provide free returns and lost revenue due to the public’s lack of confidence in the operation because of the criminal activity.
“I don’t forgive her but I still have a soft spot in my heart for her,” McGraw stated.
Hess told the court, “I am truly sorry.”
She then turned toward McGraw and spoke about how her actions damaged her former employer beyond the financial matters.
“I too will suffer for my actions. Nothing I can do will fix that,” Hess said. “You were like a mother for me. You took my mother’s place.”
Dave Buckland, an employee of the tax firm, addressed the ethical practices he and Hess taught incoming tax preparers.
“You know we both taught that as tax preparers we are held to a high standard,” Buckland said.
Buckland noted that Hess’ conduct damaged the firm’s reputation and the reputation of other H&R Block employees.
“Judy treated you like a daughter and you repay her by robbing her blind,” Buckland said.
Hess sat silent throughout the victim statements, at time placing her hand in front of her face and holding her head down.
Buckland noted how Hess withheld money from bank deposits as well as filed altered or inaccurate returns on behalf of clients.                                               
Buckland’s wife, Connie, also spoke, calling the events “unexcusable.” She also noted the amount of time Buckland and other employees had to devote to try and minimize the damage for the firm.
Scott Coon, defense attorney, told Pollex that Hess is committed to paying the restitution but acknowledged that McGraw would never get back the friendship nor the ability to trust people like she trusted Hess.
In trying to mitigate the sentence, Coon stressed the minimal chance of recidivism.
He noted because of the need to pay the restitution Hess will lose her home because she will not have the funds available to pay the mortgage. He indicated and the prosecution agreed with the judge ordering the repayment could not be permitted to be included in any upcoming bankruptcy filings by Hess.
Freeman, talking about the case, noted how Hess was “feeding her own pockets through her greed. That’s her own words according to the pre-sentence investigation.”
Freeman recommended six months of electronic home monitoring.  Pollex ordered Hess into custody immediately and denied a defense motion to stay the start of the jail time to allow her time to arrange personal matters.
At the rate of $500 per month, it will take 21 years and five months to pay all of the restitution. Pollex ordered that additional money should be paid if the probation department determined through required debtor’s exams Hess would be capable of paying more.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 July 2009 08:39
 

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