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PA teachers' union president sentenced for embezzling funds

Prosecutors in Northeastern Pennsylvania expend significant resources trying to make examples of individuals accused of white collar crimes such as embezzlement. Moreover, a judge may hand down an especially tough sentence if a defendant is found guilty of stealing funds while in a position of trust or power.

For example, consider the case of a former educator and president of a Pennsylvania teachers' union. The Shavertown resident was accused of embezzling close to $60,000 of union funds. She pleaded guilty back in October and was only recently sentenced to one year in prison.

The maximum possible sentence she might have faced was five years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and three years of probation. However, statements of support from the defendant's friends, relatives and colleagues swayed the judge not to give a longer prison sentence.

According to her defense attorney, the woman has already paid back more than $59,000 in restitution. Consequently, she was ordered by the court to pay only an additional $2,600 in fees and fines.

Authorities claimed that the defendant used union credit cards and debit cards over the course of about five years. She was accused of using union money to pay for meals, family trips and department store purchases.

In explaining her actions to the judge, the woman said that she accepted full responsibility, and that her "quest to please everyone and gain acceptance" had overwhelmed her.

The former teacher reportedly wept as the judge announced the sentence.

Charges of embezzlement should always be taken seriously. Not everyone accused of such a crime is guilty, however. In many cases, early preparation is the key to effectively defending against allegations of white collar crime. Pennsylvania residents who are under investigation for theft would be wise to speak with an attorney before speaking with authorities.

Source: timesleader.com, "Former teacher union official sentenced for embezzlement," Roger DuPuis, Jan. 25, 2014

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