Office clerk going to jail for theft
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.