A former Pulaski County employee who admitted embezzling more than $100,000 from her church will serve two years in prison even though sentencing guidelines called for probation or community service.
"We send shoplifters and petty thieves to jail. How can (Patricia Wilson) escape a prison sentence when she stole (almost $170,000), particularly from a church?" Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Fleenor asked Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge William Turk during a Wednesday sentencing hearing. The prosecutor added that it would be "unjust" for Wilson to steal that much money and not go to jail.
Wilson was employed as a deputy commissioner in the Pulaski County Commissioner of the Revenue office at the time of her arrest. Authorities said no evidence was found to suggest any money was taken from the county.
Judge Turk sentenced Wilson, 58, to 10 years in prison on five counts of felony embezzlement from Memorial Christian Church in Draper, where she was treasurer when the funds were stolen. He then suspended all but two years of the sentence and ordered the woman to serve two years of probation upon release from prison.
Fleenor argued Wednesday that the theft "was not just from a church, but from dozens and dozens of members who, week after week, month after month, contributed $20, $25, or $50 with the hope that one day they would have the money for a new building.
"The congregation would look proudly at the posted balance in the sanctuary, but Mrs. Wilson took that all from them by stealing those funds," Fleenor said.
In an effort to lighten the blow on his client, defense attorney Everett Shockley emphasized that the money Wilson took was used to support her daughter, who suffered from numerous physical and emotional problems.
Shockley also presented four character witnesses and numerous letters from people who said Wilson was a "kind, caring and compassionate" person who only stole the money to help her daughter.
On cross examination by Fleenor, Wilson’s daughter, Malena Spraker, admitted that her mother gave her as much as $40,000 annually for 4 years. When Fleenor asked her if she was suspicious about where the money was coming from, she said she was not.
Before imposing a sentence, Judge Turk told Wilson her thefts were numerous, well planned and resulted in the theft of a large sum of money over at least two and a half years.
Wilson will be held at the New River Valley Regional Jail in Dublin until she is transferred to the state penitentiary to serve her sentence.