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Accountant gets prison term for stealing from client
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
By Jeff Corcino Staff Writer
An accountant accused of stealing $56,664 from the Hitching Post in DuBois pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 11 months to five years in state prison by President Judge Fredric Ammerman yesterday.
Cynthia Patton, 56, of Falls Creek forged 11 checks from her client and deposited the funds in her personal account between September of 2011 and February of 2012.
According to Clearfield County District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr., he worked out a plea agreement with the defendant where if she paid back the money in full, prior to sentencing, she could serve a nine-month prison term in the Clearfield County Jail, if not she would serve 11 months in state prison.
Thus far, Shaw said Patton has only paid back $19,675 of the funds and still owes $37,054 and thus is required to serve the 11 months in state prison.
Patton's attorney, Ross Ferraro, asked Ammerman to sentence her to CCJ saying if she were, she would be eligible for work release, which would allow her to pay back the victims faster.
But he said she does not make much money and this would likely take several years.
Ferraro acknowledged his client committed a horrible crime and is trying to make amends for it.
He noted she used the money to help her sick father and pay debts on her accounting business.
He also noted that Patton was suffering from depression and was being treated by a doctor at the time of the thefts.
The owner of the Hitching Post, Diane Harmic and her daughter, Robin Harmic, argued against allowing her to serve her sentence at CCJ and wanted her to serve her sentence in state prison.
Robin Harmic said the theft not only adversely affected their business but took an emotional toll on the family as well.
She said the thefts adversely affected the business saying it forced them to delay needed upgrades to the business's equipment and facilities, and affected their ability to make payroll and said the business incurred fines and penalties for late payments.
She said it took an emotional toll on the family. She said the family members spent countless hours working on this case that they will never get back.
She said Patton would pretend to be friendly to her mother when she came over and as soon as she left would turn around and steal from them.
She said their business is open 24 hours a day and her father and their family worked long hours including holidays and weekends to build up that business only to have Patton, who did not work the long hours, steal their money.
Diane Harmic also said she believed Patton should serve a state sentence because that is what they agreed to.
Patton pleaded guilty to multiple counts of deception and forgery. In addition to the jail time she was ordered to pay restitution to the victims.
In other cases:
• a Clearfield man accused of stabbing his brother in a fight pleaded guilty to simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, disorderly conduct and harassment and was sentenced to serve 90 days to one year in prison plus 60 days on his parole revocation.
Michael Warrick had been also been charged with aggravated assault but that was dropped in exchange for the guilty plea.
On Dec. 3, Warrick and his younger brother became engaged in a fight in the kitchen of their home in which Warrick stabbed him in the leg and abdomen requiring him to receive treatment at the Clearfield Hospital.
• Valerie Shaw, 55, of Clearfield, pled guilty to aggravated assault by vehicle while DUI and was sentenced to six months to one year in prison.
On Dec. 15, 2011, Shaw was driving on state Route 879 in Curwensville when her vehicle crossed the centerline and struck two vehicles head-on. One victim, Alycia Aughenbaugh, received severe injuries to her leg and was flown to Altoona Regional Trauma Center.
Shaw had a BAC of 0.024, which is three times the legal limit.
Shaw's insurance paid the victim for her injuries and no restitution is required, Assistant District Attorney Beau Grove said.
• Laura Baldwin, 39, pleaded guilty to recklessly endangering another person and was sentenced to two years of probation, and was fined $300 plus court costs, and forbidden from working in the child care industry while on probation.
Baldwin was originally charged with aggravated assault for allegedly causing a traumatic brain injury to an infant boy in her care on May 5, 2011.
When asked by Ammerman why the charges are being reduced, Shaw said it is a difficult case but said state police investigators believe the boy's injuries were likely caused by a fall from being improperly secured in a car seat, chair or crib and said he was not sure if he could get a conviction on the aggravated assault charge at trial because the commonwealth would have to prove that Baldwin had intentionally hurt the boy.
He also said the lead investigator on the case is no longer working for the Clearfield Borough police department and it is unknown if the commonwealth would be able to get him to testify at trial.
Former police officer Brian Dixon was the lead investigator on the case.
He resigned from the department last November.
Fortunately, the boy has fully recovered from his injuries and Shaw said the boy's mother is in agreement with the plea agreement. The mother's native language is Vietnamese and Shaw said he spoke with her extensively using an interpreter.
• during motions court yesterday afternoon, Ammerman denied the motion by Joseph A. Brown, 59, of DuBois who accused of raping a 71, year old woman, to delay the start of his trial.
Brown is accused of raping the woman on Dec. 10 at her residence.
Brown's trial is scheduled for April 22-23, but Brown's attorney, Michael Marshall asked for a continuance of the trial saying he needs more time to find an expert witness to analyze the medical records of the victim.
He said this information is critical because his client contends that there was sexual intercourse but it was consensual.
When asked by Ammerman when the defense received the medical report, Assistant District Attorney Beau Grove said the defense was provided it on Jan. 17.
Ammerman asked Marshall why an expert wasn't found sooner and why this wasn't brought up earlier prior to a jury being selected for the trial.
The public defenders office is representing Brown and Ammerman asked if his theory is correct that none of the attorneys in the public defenders office had bothered to look at Brown's file carefully until after the jury was selected and Marshall answered that this is correct.
Ammerman said he did not fault Marshall since he is only a part-time attorney in the public defenders office but said the public defender's office had "dropped the ball" and someone should have caught this beforehand.
Marshall said public defenders office currently has a heavy caseload and said unfortunately this case fell through the cracks.
He said part of the problem could have been that the case was going to be transferred to another attorney but it ended up staying with him. Marshall also said he deserves some of the blame as well saying he should have caught it earlier.
Shaw argued against delaying the trial saying the information wouldn't be enough to sway a jury.
Shaw said he is willing to concede at trial that the woman's injuries could have been caused by something else other than rape and allow the jury to decide the case based on whether they believe the victim's account of events or Brown's account and if Brown making the expert testimony immaterial. He noted if Brown is convicted, he could raise the question again on appeal.
Shaw also argued that the victim is an older woman and if the trial is delayed, she could become incapacitated or die in the meantime and Brown would get off and that wouldn't be fair either.
However, Marshall said he believes this is insufficient and said if convicted, Brown is looking at 15-20 years in prison, which would essentially be a life sentence for him.
He said it would be cleaner if they got the trial right in the first place.
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