Online gambler to spend year in jail
By By NORMA LERNER / Niles Daily Star
CASSOPOLIS -- A 32-year-old Cassopolis woman with a gambling addiction will spend a year in the Cass County Jail for using someone else's money to gamble with over the Internet.
Diane Lynn Hartsell of 56565 Gards Prairie Road will have to pay restitution for the $63,508.51 she embezzled from her employer, Rocco Papandrea, while she was employed at North American Aqua at 18008 State Street, Vandalia.
Hartsell pleaded guilty June 13 to a charge of embezzlement by an agent more than $20,000 which carries a 10 year prison term.
Defense Attorney John Magyar said that Hartsell made some restitution payments. He said she got caught up in gambling in asking for a sentence Friday in Cass County Circuit Court at the low end of her guideline range of five to 23 months. He told the court that she has two children and is the only person employed at her household.
Hartsell said she was "truly sorry" for everything and that she will never to it again.
Assistant Prosecutor David Moore said the victim is in his 60s and that Hartsell took money from his business. He recommended a prison term to send a strong message to the community.
Circuit Judge Michael E. Dodge said it was between January, 2002, and October, 2002, that Hartsell took over $20,000 of the firm's money. He said she was a trusted employee. She accessed his on-line banking account to support Internet gambling addiction. "You fell prey to a gambling problem thinking you could make it to pay back. You kept gambling and kept losing. You didn't know how much you gambled away of his money," Dodge said.
Dodge said Papandrea faces losing his retirement nest egg and that at his age, he will have a difficult time recovering it. "He trusted you in his company. You betrayed him."
Court records showed this is Hartsell's third felony offense since she had two prior drunk driving felonies.
Dodge told Hartsell she was straddling between jail and prison but that probation with a jail term could be more productive than sending her to prison.
He said with probation she has the opportunity to repay the money. Dodge imposed five years of probation in addition to the jail term, a probation supervision fee of $2,400, $60 to the Crime Victims' fund, $60 for DNA testing and $350 in court cost.
In another sentencing, Katarri Shawnitz Edwards, 25, of 202 Cherry Street, Dowagiac, received 240 days in jail and three years of probation for delivering a $20 rock of crack cocaine to an undercover police informant on Sept. 6, 2001. This is the second drug conviction for Edwards. Moore recommended jail time at the upper end of his guideline range which was zero to 11 months.
Dodge also imposed a probation supervision fee of $900, $60 to the Crime Victims' fund, $60 for DNA testing and $950 in costs. He received credit for 131 days served.