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Published: Friday, 10/1/2010

Ex-Erie County worker set to be sentenced for embezzlement

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

SANDUSKY - A former employee of the Erie County Treasurer's Office is to be sentenced Friday morning for stealing more than $146,000 in county funds.

Tamara J. Holeton, 41, of Sandusky pleaded guilty in August to theft in office and tampering with records stemming from an embezzlement that occurred between 2005 and 2009.

She could get up to 10 years in prison when she is sentenced at 9 a.m. by Erie County Common Pleas Judge Tygh M. Tone.

In addition to the missing money, Erie County Prosecutor Kevin Baxter said the county is on the line for the cost of a special audit conducted by the state auditor's office: more than $100,000.

"It's a lot of money, and whether or not the county's ever going to recoup that certainly remains to be seen," Mr. Baxter said.

Thursday, State Auditor Mary Taylor's office released the results of the special audit, which pegged the missing funds at $146,592. The audit found that 250 separate pay-ins were unaccounted for in the treasurer's records and the funds were never deposited.

Mr. Baxter said in most instances, Holeton pocketed - rather than deposited - cash brought to the treasurer's office from other county departments, such as money paid by residents for dog licenses.

Erie County Treasurer Jo Dee Fantozz said Holeton was employed in her office as a deputy treasurer from September, 2001, until she was terminated in February. Ms. Fantozz declined to comment on the case but said she planned to make a statement at Holeton's sentencing Friday.

Holeton's attorney, Troy Wisehart, said his client was having "significant financial difficulties" at home.

"She just succumbed to temptation and she feels horrible about it," he said. "She wants to make restitution and she wants to make amends."

He said he will ask the court to consider imposing community control sanctions rather than prison time so that Holeton can repay the county. She also plans to voluntarily surrender her Public Employees Retirement System account as well as the money in her deferred compensation account, which is similar to a 401K savings plan, Mr. Wisehart said.

"She was paying her expenses," he added. "It's not like she's driving around in a Lamborghini. She was just trying to make ends meet."

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-724-6129.



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