CLEARFIELD – A Falls Creek woman was sent to state prison for stealing more than $56,000 from a local business.
Cynthia M. Patton, 56, 1850 Ridge Rd., Falls Creek, pleaded guilty in Clearfield County Court to 33 felony counts of theft by deception, 26 felony counts of access device fraud, 14 counts of forgery, nine misdemeanor counts of theft and two misdemeanor counts of access device fraud.
She was sentenced by Clearfield County President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman to a total of 11 months to five years in state prison. She must pay restitution of more than $56,669.
Prior to sentencing, it was noted that she has already paid close to $20,000. There was a discussion as to whether she should be sentenced to state prison or the county jail, where she could apply for work release and earn money to continue to pay the victims.
Robin Harmick and her mother both from the Hitching Post addressed the court with their concerns. Harmick pointed out that the loss of this money resulted in a lower working capital for the business, which in turn affected payroll, supplies and other expenses. This caused unnecessary fees and lost personal time, which was invested in trying to sort things out.
She told Ammerman that when Patton was asked why she took the money she replied because “it was there.”
“We’re open holidays when other people are off,” she said adding that her mother and her father are hard workers.
“She did not deserve it (their money),” Harmick stated.
Patton’s attorney, Ross Ferraro, admitted that his client took advantage of their trust but reminded the court she confessed to the crime right away. He said she used the funds to make payments on her business and to help family members.
She wants to pay the money back and the only answer for that is for her to keep working, he stated.
In March several people spoke on Patton’s behalf in court before the case was continued. One was a client who said she was an “honest person” who had made a mistake. He added that when she was ready to come back to work for him, she could.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, police began investigating Patton, who was working as an accountant for the business, which was missing $52,495. The owner of the business provided police with copies of 11 checks, which were issued from Sept. 20, 2011 through Feb. 25, 2012. The checks were made out to Patton or to cash, had the owner’s signature and were endorsed by Patton. They were then deposited into an account belonging to Patton. The business owner did not sign the checks and did not authorize anyone else to sign her name. Eight of the checks were for $5,000, one for $4,995, one for $4,000 and another for $3,500. Three additional charges come from checks that were later discovered by police bringing the total taken to $56,269.
The business was a client of Patton’s accounting service. As the accountant, she had maintained the checkbook and received all the bank statements for the business. In early March of 2012, the owner began to get suspicious as money went missing and asked for the bank statements. When Patton supplied the statements, two pages were missing. After the owner asked about them, Patton claimed to not know where they were. Later, the owner was able to obtain the information on the checks from the bank.
During an interview with police, Patton was shown copies of the checks. As soon as they were put in front of her, she shuffled through them and then stated “I did it.” She also admitted to forging the owner’s signature and depositing the checks into her personal account.