Office clerk going to jail for theft

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Greencastle woman convicted of embezzling thousands of dollars from a former employer over a three-year span received a five-year sentence in Putnam County Circuit Court on Thursday.

Lesa Hartman, 46, pleaded guilty a Class C felony forgery charge and a Class D felony theft charge on May 22. Under the terms of a plea agreement, five charges each of Class C felony forgery and Class D felony theft against Hartman were dismissed.

Hartman will spend 18 months of her sentence in jail, six months on home detention with electronic monitoring and three years on probation.

Hartman was also ordered to pay full restitution to her former employer, Greencastle optometrist Russell Elliott. The exact amount she will pay has yet to be decided -- the defense estimates Hartman stole about $97,500, while the prosecution alleges the figure is closer to $200,000.

In May, Hartman admitted to stealing the money from Elliott between January 2005 and August 2007. She had been a part-time employee of Elliott's for 11 years.

Her duties included fitting patients for eyeglasses and contact lenses and doing office work.

At sentencing, Hartman told the court that one of her duties was to pick up the office's mail from a post office box. She admitted to taking some of the checks from insurance companies written to the optometry office and cashing them, using a signature stamp of Elliott's.

She would then take the cash, she said, and deposit it into her personal account at a different bank.

Hartman attributed her theft and forgery to an addiction to credit cards and medical issues. She said she is currently nearly $50,000 in debt to credit card companies.

According to defense attorney Daryl Felling, Hartman has been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder through a psychological evaluation by the Hamilton Center in Greencastle.

Hartman testified that she has severe anxiety and depression she thinks could have been caused by the allergy medication Singulair.

Elliott testified at the sentencing, telling the court that Hartman's crimes nearly bankrupt his 38-year-old business.

"I knew I seemed busy," Elliott said. "But somehow I was losing money."

The optometrist testified that he was forced to take out a mortgage on a home he owns and go into debt with his credit cards in order to keep his business afloat.

"I honestly thought I might have to close the office," Elliott said.

Elliott also spoke of the emotional damage caused by Hartman's crimes, and recommended full restitution and jail time as a proper sentence for his former employee.

"The violation of trust ... you have no idea what it did to me, my family and my office staff," Elliott said.

Hartman said she was remorseful for her crimes, and thanked the court for its time.

"I just want to apologize to the Elliotts and my friends and family for all I have put them through," Hartman said.

As Judge Matthew Headley handed down Hartman's sentence, he commented on the impact of credit cards on debt.

"This is a great example of the credit card industry latching on to someone," Headley said. "You, Mrs. Hartman, have elevated that to committing criminal acts.

View 8 comments
Note: The nature of the Internet makes it impractical for our staff to review every comment. Please note that those who post comments on this website may do so using a screen name, which may or may not reflect a website user's actual name. Readers should be careful not to assign comments to real people who may have names similar to screen names. Refrain from obscenity in your comments, and to keep discussions civil, don't say anything in a way your grandmother would be ashamed to read.
  • This is our fine judicial system at its best.

    Seems to me she admitted to the crime she should be made to do the time. Who was paid off in this case. Once a thief always a thief, THIEF.

    Singular give me a break what kind of defense was that, and the Hamilton Center what-ever they are only certified to hand out pills. She should be made an example of. Now that people know what they can get by with there will be more cases like this I'm sure. Remember folks is not about the crime! But who you are, who you know and how much money your family has.

    -- Posted by Reader2 on Fri, Jul 11, 2008, at 9:14 PM
  • No prison time? There are folks in prison doing their time for doing alot less of a crime.So the county pays to house her for 18 months and not the state? Makes no sense.

    -- Posted by peace2019 on Sun, Jul 13, 2008, at 7:54 PM
  • Feel very grateful for the sentence she got. I could have been much worse. And besides the 18 month is along time. When she could have gotten a lot more time and who would have had to pay. The reputation of her family and the loss of respect. It seems very fair and well done.

    -- Posted by paula4 on Mon, Jul 14, 2008, at 12:28 PM
  • I'm not sure how you can say it is fair! The only "fair" thing would INCLUDE that she repay every penny that honest people paid to Dr. Elliott...and a jail sentence for as long as the behavior least 3 years. I'm not sure how she will repay Dr Elliott while in jail...I doubt that he will see that money. Leave no doubt in your mind that is where I believe a THIEF should be. She did not have a mometary lapse and make a mistake....she thought about this and continued this dishonest behavior for years!

    -- Posted by ExHoosier on Tue, Jul 15, 2008, at 1:48 PM
  • The Thief Hartman got off easy, As she said in court, she mad $1000.00 a month, at that rate it would take 10 years for her to pay off the Doctor. I feel sorry for the Doctor and just wonder how Hartmans girls can face the public knowing the things they have and the cloths on their backs were gained from stolen means. Nice!

    -- Posted by Afghan Contractor on Wed, Jul 16, 2008, at 11:56 AM
  • The daughters didn't steal. The mother was the one convicted. As if this aint hard enough on her family already. Be mad at the system not the innocents she is related to.

    -- Posted by Sportfan on Thu, Jul 17, 2008, at 8:45 AM
  • Ok UhOhNoNo, Let's put in terms you can understand, Lesa Hartman stole, over 3 years, and let's us use the middle figure of $125,000 (the difference as stated in this article of the Defense and the Prosecuting figures. However she was convicted of $97,000), for the sake of this argument. About $41,000 a year she stole. Now she has a credit card debt of $50,000, and I will give you the latitude that not all things in the family's possessions are stolen, however, the fact that, if you look at her credit card spending and embezzlement fund intake, the majority of her income was stolen, ergo the majority of possessions are stolen. Cannot put another way really can we?

    As for over bitterness, I hate thieves, I hate EVERYTHING they are and about them. How can a person sit there day after day, look at their employer knowing what they are doing and be fine with it, "Oh I have a obsessive-compulsive disorder" "Oh I was taking the allergy medication Singulair and that caused me to Steal" Please!! Millions of Americans take Singulair and have obsessive-compulsive disorders, but you don't see them stealing from their employers to the point of ruining an Honest businessman do you? THAT takes some real unbelievable guile to live. She lied to her Family, Her Pastor and Church, her Employer and Co-workers and lived this lie for years! This was not just an isolated incident of petty theft. This was a calculated, deceitful act that went on for YEARS!! If she was really remorseful, upon her initial arrest, she would have tried to make things right, then and there, she did not, hence I question her sincerity for the accountability of her actions. I guess THAT is what drives my bitterness. That and the fact, as stated above, the actions she performed at the expense of others to include her family.

    As for my comments directed towards the Girls, I am DEEPLY apologetic for that, That was not the intent of my remarks. They too were the victims of their Mothers crime.

    -- Posted by Afghan Contractor on Fri, Jul 18, 2008, at 9:06 AM
  • Thou Shall not Steal is one of Ten commandments, I believe she got a reasonable amount of time. From what I have seen it was her first crime..There is 2 sides to every story with Lesa and Dr Elliott.. I believe Lesa was wrong in her actions, if she was having issues with money she should of asked her family for help..If she was having mental problems it was more then any medicine that she was taking at that time. Dr Elliott is very angry, I can't blame him for that, but being a doctor he should of seen the signs with his staff and did his book work a little better or more on time then he has..How does anyone know how honest anybody is in this world today whether your a employee or employer....This world has changed and there is little trust or compassion to help others...What happen for our values we were raised with...We need today to have our children learn a lesson from these crimes of others and find a way if your a victim on both sides to be remorse and forgiving..All people do make mistakes in life, some big,little or no crime..

    For her daughter's I hope they have learned a

    lesson from seeing their mother this way and will take some positive force for their futures..It dosen't matter at this point what the community thinks. The verdict has been handed down and there is no reason for them to suffer at their mother's hands for the future..For the rest of the family, I believe they are just as devasted at this and are asking themselves several questions but hopefully in time they will find a way to deal with this and can have a brighter outlook and help their daughter in jail get the help she needs....

    -- Posted by boomer12 on Sat, Jul 19, 2008, at 6:38 AM
Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: