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Saying she didn’t ever want to return to that “deep, dark place” she was at when she stole more than $500,000 from Gesu Roman Catholic Parish, the parish’s former business manager apologized Friday in U.S. District Court for embezzling the money to feed a gambling habit.
“I’m very grateful for the FBI, and the bank, and Gesu because I honestly feel they saved my life,” a tearful Patricia Ann Stanz told the court. “... I was defenseless, and I wanted to get caught. I immediately admitted my wrongdoings that day, and the relief that I felt was totally indescribable.”
Calling the case “an aggravated abuse of trust,” Judge James Carr sentenced Stanz, 61, to two years in federal prison and ordered her to repay $505,777 that she stole from the West Toledo parish. He also ordered her to perform 100 hours of community service when she is released from prison.
She had pleaded guilty in September to one count each of counterfeit securities and fraudulent use of access device.
While Andy Hart, attorney for Stanz, said he did not believe prison was the appropriate place for Stanz given her lack of criminal history and the unlikelihood she would reoffend, the judge said repeatedly that a prison sentence was necessary to deter the public from repeating her crime.
“I think a severe sentence in this circumstance is important, and I do think that it will enhance respect for the law,” Judge Carr said.
He said with the nearby convenience of the Hollywood Casino just off I-75 in East Toledo, he wants people to know they will go to prison if they decide to do what Stanz did.
“If somebody tonight walks into the doors of that casino down the road with somebody else’s money and happens to hear about the very sentence I impose and decides to turn around and stop or seek help, I think that this will have served a very useful purpose,” Judge Carr said.
The Rev. James Auth, retired pastor of Regina Coeli parish, spoke on Stanz’s behalf before the sentence was imposed.
He told the court he has done “addictive work and counseling” for many years and has seen Stanz transformed since she got involved with Gamblers Anonymous a year ago.
“She’s done everything right. She’s a better person,” Father Auth said. “I believe she’s in a recovery that will last.”
Thomas Karol, an assistant U.S. attorney, told the court the severity of the crime demanded prison time.
“This was not a minor embezzlement,” he said. “This occurred over four years, approximately $500,000, and repeated instances of it.”
Prosecutors said Stanz used the parish’s signature stamp to cash some 97 checks totaling $295,000 from the parish’s checking account between June, 2008, and February, 2011. She also used a Gesu credit card for purchases and cash advances totaling more than $230,000 from September, 2008, to August, 2011.
The restitution ordered includes $471,659 that was reimbursed by the diocese’s insurance carrier and $34,118 for which Gesu was not reimbursed.
The Rev. Marty Lukas, current pastor at Gesu, was not at the parish when Stanz was indicted and did not attend the hearing.
"I just think that it's nice that it's brought to a close now," he said when contacted afterward. "We can move ahead."