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Woman receives three years in theft scheme

November 30, 2005|by Pepper Ballard

HAGERSTOWN

pepperb@herald-mail.com

A Washington County Circuit judge said he had "no choice" but to sentence a Williamsport woman to serve three years in prison Tuesday after he learned she didn't pay back a large portion of the approximately $200,000 she owes her former employer.

Krista Sue Hudson, 37, of 16818 Tammany Manor Road, pleaded guilty in September to felony theft scheme for stealing close to $230,000 from Robinwood Orthopaedic Specialists over the course of about four years, according to court documents and Assistant State's Attorney Mark Boyer.

On Tuesday, Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone III told Hudson, before he announced her three-year sentence, "I have no choice at this time. This may stimulate the restitution process."

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At the September hearing, Hudson gave $25,000 toward restitution. She had been free on a $40,000 bond that her attorney, John Salvatore, had said was secured with a lien against her home. Boone decided to strike the bond and release her on personal recognizance pending sentencing. That was allowed so she could obtain a home equity loan to help repay the money, according to published reports.

On Tuesday, Salvatore said Hudson plans to use a forthcoming $23,300 pension check to help pay the doctor's office back, but she could not get a home equity loan because her husband would be at risk of losing the home. He suggested she serve probation instead of prison time and mapped out a payment plan, which would have had Hudson paying $1,000 a month back to the doctor's office, a plan, he admitted, that would mean full restitution would not be made within five years.

Boone told Salvatore he delayed her sentencing because he believed she would make significant restitution if given a couple more months.

"To say the least, I'm a little upset today," Boone said. "To say the check's in the mail doesn't fly with me."

Boone sentenced her to serve eight years in prison, but suspended all but three years, placing her on three years of probation upon her release. Hudson can make a request to have her sentence modified later, he said.

"You're going to the Division of Correction," Boone told Hudson, a short woman who was wearing a striped sweater and slacks. "It's a very simple game. 'Show me the money.'"

Boyer said sentencing guidelines for Hudson ranged from probation to six months for the offense, but he requested she serve six years.

He said she still owes $203,020.51 and is "still reaping the benefits of stealing more than $200,000."

"She was in a position of trust. She was supposed to watch out and make sure the money wasn't stolen," he said. "It was, in all senses of the word, a scheme."

Dr. Donald Patterson of Robinwood Orthopaedic Specialists addressed Boone earlier in the hearing, saying the office workers and supporters, many of whom were at the hearing, were disappointed in Hudson, who worked there for six years and was trusted.

"It certainly has impacted the practice," he said. "... How shocked we were that someone could do this and do it 700 times."

Salvatore said Hudson, a wife and mother of two boys, has "never been in trouble." The thefts became an addiction unnoticed and, if she had been caught earlier, "it would have been the end of her criminal career," he said.

Hudson told Boone through tears, "I am truly sorry. I know I disappointed people I worked with and my family."

After the hearing, Patti Demory, the office's administrative assistant, said she was surprised to learn of Hudson's scheme at the time. On Boss's Day in 2004, Hudson was carrying a bucket of chicken upstairs for a celebration, but dropped it and began counting the pieces, believing the office had been swindled, Demory said.

"She called (a restaurant) because there were only 49 pieces of chicken and there were supposed to be 50 in the box," she said.

That was the same day Hudson was fired from the office, she said.

Hudson was fired Oct. 18, 2004, after the office manager, Elaine Harne, noticed that bank deposit slips, which Hudson was authorized to fill out, had been altered, according to charging documents.

Harne reviewed F&M Bank slips from July 2004 and noticed that no cash deposits had been made, but insurance checks were increased to compensate for cash, making the overall balances the same, documents allege.

Hudson told police she used some of the stolen money to buy a camper, a vacation and cruise, replace her home carpet and kitchen floor, and make a down payment on a minivan, documents state.

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