Former Lehi treasurer Joyce S. Wilson asked for leniency for bilking the city out of almost $370,000, but 4th District Judge Ray M. Harding said he must send the public the right message and sentenced the 64-year-old woman to one year in the Utah County Jail.
"One must not engage in this kind of conduct," Harding said.Wilson pleaded guilty in February to one count of theft by deception, a second-degree felony, for stealing residents' utility payments from January 1988 to October 1994. She was terminated three months ago after working for the city for 20 years.
Stan Smith, Wilson's attorney, told Harding that sending his client to jail would serve no purpose, that she has already suffered substantially by the public scrutiny surrounding the case. Also, Wilson cooperated with investigators and auditors in determining the amount of money missing and how the money was stolen. Smith said rehabilitation is not necessary because Wilson is no longer working for the city.
In order to liquidate her assets and obtain loans to repay the stolen funds, Smith said Wilson needed to remain free. He acknowledged that the city could have used the money to complete certain projects, but said the only party that lost money was the city's bonding company.
"The small individual really was not hurt," Smith said.
The plea bargain with the state said prosecutors would not seek jail time if Wilson cooperated with auditors and made full restitution. Adult Probation and Parole, however, recommended the one-year jail sentence.
Harding said he had to send an accountability message to the community that those in a position of public trust must be responsible for their actions. Others who have committed similar crimes have received prison time, he said. He also said Wilson's crime took place over several years and involved repetitive acts.
"You can liken it to a burglar that would go out and repeatedly burglarize weekly, monthly and yearly," Harding said.
Besides the jail time, Harding placed Wilson on three years' probation and fined her $1,850. He scheduled a review hearing for Sept. 26 where he wants a written plan submitted for restitution, which would include the $370,000 taken and about $15,000 in auditors and attorneys fees. At the hearing Harding will consider a motion to reduce the remaining jail time.