GAINESVILLE, FL - June 19, 2020 - According to an online news report published on Gainesville.com, a former Gainesville city employee failed to appear to her sentencing hearing. A warrant for her arrest has been issued by the court. The former city employee is charged with embezzling over $93,000 in public funds. The 36-year-old defendant was charged with fraud and larceny charges over three years ago following a city probe discovered she used her government-issued credit card more than 135 times in unauthorized purchases. One of those unauthorized purchases was a Brazilian butt lift surgical procedure.
Prosecutors and investigators also allege that the defendant used her bosses’ credit cards more than 35 times to purchase unauthorized goods and services. Those unauthorized purchases were more than $30,000. The defendant also spent almost $900 on her coworker’s government credit card.
The defendant's court proceedings were rescheduled and delayed numerous occasions following her arrest back in 2017. The defendant was on the docket to receive her sentence where she would enter in her plea deal at the Alachua County Courthouse this past Wednesday morning. However, the defendant never appeared to her sentencing hearing. In her plea deal, the defendant agreed to pay $92,000 in restitution, and serve the minimum two-year sentence in jail (with a maximum of 15 years) at the Florida Department of Corrections.
The news report states that a couple of minutes subsequent to the time in which the hearing was to begin, the defendant was not in the courtroom. Circuit Judge Phillip Pena directed the defendant's lawyer to look for the defendant. The former Gainesville city worker was nowhere to be found in the courthouse. A member of the Public Defender’s Office attempted to contact the defendant by phone. He came back to the courtroom a few minutes later and stated that he tried to call the defendant and her family but was unable to contact the defendant, and he stated that it appeared to him that the defendant deactivated her telephone number.
Circuit Judge Phillip Pena stated that he, at this time he would not move forward with the defendant's sentencing hearing without the defendant present. The state attorney representative asked the judge to issue a capias for her arrest due to her failure to appear. As part of the arrest warrant, the defendant would not be able to post bail when she is apprehended by law enforcement.
According to the news report, the defendant once faced similar criminal charges in other Florida counties before her employment with the City of Gainesville.
Soon after the defendant's arrest, in this case, The Sun acquired documents confirming the defendant was charged in Leon County, Florida, for making fraudulent charges, and she had an outstanding arrest warrant in Orange County, Florida. Her criminal charges in Orange County, Florida, allegedly involved the illegal selling of employee personal data and banking information to a third party. The charges she faced in Orange County, Florida, were dismissed after the defendant plead no contest. The criminal charges dismissed included scheming to defraud, burglary of a structure, and five counts of fraudulent use of personal identification.
Stacy Scott, Alachua County’s Public Defender, stated that it is not common for defendants to not appear at sentencing hearings. However, in some cases, there may be a legitimate reason for not appearing to a hearing. Stacy Scott added that on occasion, the State Attorney or the judge would not let a failure to appear to impact the sentencing in the defendant's case as there may be legitimate reasons for the defendant not to appear.