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Woman who embezzled $485,000 is freed

A judicial mistake has freed Jayne Patience, who had been sentenced to up to 10 years for embezzling $485,000.

The West Jordan woman's latest target was Copy Man, a family-owned South Salt Lake business. The shop was the third of Patience's victims, and it was with that in mind that 3rd District Judge Pat Brian imposed the prison time in December 1995 for her guilty pleas to three felony counts.However, Patience had pleaded to "attempted" forgery, a crime that - unbeknownst to officials - had been reclassified as a misdemeanor under an amendment to Utah's criminal code.

In August, the Utah Court of Appeals ruled that under the new law, Patience faced a maximum penalty of only two years.

"You steal $485,000 and it's a misdemeanor?" pondered Bob Wertz, whose son owns Copy Man and has not received a cent of the missing money. "Sounds like a good deal."

At her resentencing on Friday, Brian said the 22 months Patience served was enough, wished her luck and sent her home with her three adult children.

Patience did not divulge where the missing money went, but she promised to start paying $400 a month restitution. If she complies, she'll have the principal repaid in a century.

"I have changed the way I think," Patience told the judge. "Instead of being a burden, I want to start paying back what I've incurred. I know it will take a lifetime."

After her first embezzling conviction in 1987, Patience became a legal secretary for attorney Virginius Dabney, who had helped persuade now-retired 3rd District Judge Kenneth Rigtrup to keep her out of jail.

"Within two or three months after I went to that extent, Jayne started to embezzle from me," said Dabney, a former criminal defense attorney. "That's how she repaid me."

During a 10-month period, Patience looted the law firm by buying items for herself and her boyfriend, a Dabney client, on company checks and credit cards, Dabney alleged.

Patience was not jailed for violating probation or slapped with new charges. She sued Dabney for alleged nonpayment of overtime but dropped the suit and agreed to pay Dabney $6,000.

"It did not cover my legal fees," Dabney said. "I'm still out $20,000."

Patience then went to work in 1990 for Copy Man, where she manipulated the firm's computer records to cover up embezzlements that lasted until 1995, according to court records.

The firm did not learn about Patience's criminal past until after she was hired, Wertz said. By then, she was performing so well as the Copy Man's corporate administrator, the Wertzes did not fire her.

Then in early 1995, Bob Wertz received a call from the bank informing him of a suspicious check written against the business's account. The original payee's name had been erased and Patience's name substituted, Wertz said.

A police investigation unearthed her longstanding practice of inserting her name on the firm's checks and depositing them into her own account. She was charged with felony forgery in March 1995. Copy Man sought repayment of $485,000 in a civil suit.