Note: This story appears in the Sunday, July 21 newspaper on Page A3.
A woman who last month was sentenced in Hocking County for theft in office was sentenced again this week in Athens County Common Pleas Court for stealing from her employer.
Bridget Wolfe, 44, of Carpenter Road, Albany, pleaded guilty Wednesday to grand theft and tampering with records, admitting that she stole $13,210 from her employer, Lance’s Trailer Sales of Canaanville, where she worked as a bookkeeper.
The guilty plea resulted from a plea agreement in which the prosecution and defense recommended that she be placed on five years of community control and pay $500 restitution to cover the business’s insurance deductible. However, there was disagreement over other aspects of the sentence.
Athens County Assistant Prosecutor T.L. Warren argued the charges should be considered separate offenses and urged the court to impose an underlying prison sentence of 36 months. Also, Warren asked that Wolfe be ordered to serve 30 days in Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail.
Defense attorney Doug Francis argued the charges should be merged for sentencing purposes, with an underlying prison sentence of 18 months. He also argued that she should not be sent to jail.
A representative of the business, Jenny Lance, read a victim impact statement and at times became emotional.
“I really liked Miss Wolfe and trusted her,” Lance said. “It never crossed my mind that she would steal.”
She called Wolfe a liar, hypocrite and manipulator, and asked the court to impose a sentence that would help protect other small businesses from Wolfe.
“She’s a habitual thief, she is a felon and she is not the victim here,” Lance told the court. “My husband Chris, our other employees and I have been victimized. She hides behind a sweet, quiet, Christian persona.”
Lance said that when they hired Wolfe in August of 2017 they were not aware of the 2016 theft from the village of Murray City, because Wolfe had not yet been prosecuted for it. Wolfe was the village’s fiscal officer.
“So, if she had been convicted promptly of that felony ... we could all have been saved a lot of grief and aggravation. However, it was not handled promptly,” Lance said.
The defense on Wednesday called to the witness stand Heather Cooper, a certified counselor trainee at Hopewell Health Centers, who said she’d been counseling Wolfe for a couple months. Cooper testified that Wolfe has been diagnosed with severe depression, anxiety disorder and adjustment disorder, but has made progress and would benefit from additional counseling.
Francis told Judge Patrick Lang that in earlier plea negotiations the prosecution was not asking for Wolfe to get jail time, but Warren countered that as the case dragged on the pain and hurt of the victims began to fester so the prosecution sought the 30 days in jail.
Francis said that Hocking County law enforcement talked to Wolfe on Dec. 12, 2016, and restitution to Murray City was made in January 2017. She had been accused of stealing $6,100.
“That was the last thing that Hocking County did until after Athens County became involved,” Francis said. “She thought Hocking County was basically done, but she never got the help she actually needed, she never actually got the treatment she actually needed.”
Wolfe was indicted on Sept. 7, 2018, in Hocking County, and on Oct. 29, 2018 in Athens County.
Lang ruled that the grand theft and tampering with records charges should not be merged for sentencing. He placed Wolfe on five years of community control with an underlying prison sentence of 36 months, ordered her to continue counseling and pay $500 restitution, and sentenced her to 30 days in the regional jail to be served within 90 days.
Last month in Hocking County Common Pleas Court, Wolfe was sentenced for theft in office and placed on five years of community control, with an underlying prison sentence of 12 months, and ordered to have counseling at Hopewell. Wolfe had also pleaded guilty to a charge of theft for stealing the $6,100, but it was merged into the theft of office charge for sentencing purposes, according to Hocking County Assistant Prosecutor Colleen Williams.
The Messenger asked Williams about the time gap between Wolfe being contacted by law enforcement in 2016 and being indicted in 2018.
“There was somewhat of a delay in getting it indicted,” Williams acknowledged, but said it had nothing to do with the Athens County case.