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Woman gets jail in fraud

She receives a 5-year sentence for stealing $200,000, but the victim just wants restitution.

By JAMIE MALERNEE

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 13, 2001


BROOKSVILLE -- A bookkeeper who slowly siphoned more than $200,000 from her employer will spend the next five years in prison.

That was the sentence handed down to Mary C. Elliott, 54, of Holiday on Friday after she pleaded guilty to theft and fraud charges. Investigators say Elliott stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the company, Artistic Homes, and its owner, Spring Hill builder Bob Eaton, over five years by adding an additional $1,000 a week to a special employee savings account. Elliott would have the checks approved by her boss and then alter them later.

In addition to ordering prison time, Circuit Judge Jack Springstead ruled that Elliott must pay $204,000 in restitution to Eaton and recommended she be sent to a correctional facility that would allow her to work off some of that amount while still incarcerated.

He also ruled, however, that the case would remain in his jurisdiction for another 60 days, records show.

Eaton, her former boss, said Monday that he doesn't want to see Elliott behind bars -- he just wants his money back. And he thinks Elliott has the means to return it to him, citing a three-story home in Hernando Beach he claims Elliott and her ex-husband built, using him to unknowingly pay for many of the expenses.

When he learned in December 1999 that Elliott had charged many of the construction supplies to him, he demanded $93,000 back, which she promptly paid him. But the house, which he referred to as the Taj Mahal, still makes him suspicious that Elliott is not as broke as she claims, he said.

"I would not have a problem with her sentence being reduced if she made a significant effort toward restitution," Eaton said.

Neither prosecutors nor Elliott's defense attorney returned calls for comment.

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