By MELINDA WILLIAMS
Since being sentenced in 2011 for embezzling over $5,000 from Pulaski County Treasurer’s Office, Natoya Janeice McCloud has only paid about 9 percent of the restitution ordered by the court.
Tuesday, McCloud was given a 15-day jail sentence for being in contempt of court; however, she will be allowed to serve the sentence on weekends so she doesn’t lose a job she just started.
“I think you’re in contempt, but I don’t want you to lose your job,” Judge Colin Gibb told McCloud Tuesday, adding that he thinks she should have made a better effort to pay restitution over the past year. She was ordered in January 2013 to serve three months of her original sentence for failing to make payments as required.
In December 2010, McCloud pleaded no contest to 10 counts of embezzlement. She received 10 years in prison, with nine years, six months suspended under the condition she pay restitution.
At that time, McCloud told Judge Gibb she was not guilty of the charges, but she did not want to take the risk of a jury trial that was requested by the prosecution. By pleading no contest she acknowledged evidence was sufficient for a finding of guilt without admitting guilt.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Fleenor told Judge Gibb Tuesday that McCloud didn’t make any payments after being released from jail last spring. When a “show cause” was issued during the summer to return her to court to explain the lack of payments, he said, she paid $105 on Aug. 1, $102 on Aug. 8, $30 on Sept. 30 and $40 on Oct. 31.
McCloud owed a total of $5,938 in restitution, according to Fleenor, and she still has an outstanding balance of $5,365.
Defense attorney Cynthia Dodge said McCloud entered into a payment plan with the circuit court clerk’s office to make payments at a rate of $25 per month beginning October 2012. As such, she contends, her client would only be $23 behind in payments.
Fleenor said the main purpose of the payment plan is to keep the defendant’s driver’s license from being suspended.
Gibb said the clerk’s office will take whatever payments they can get, but $25 per month isn’t the kind of repayment he had in mind.
Fleenor expressed concern that McCloud failed to make payments upon being released from jail and only decided to do so when the show cause was issued.
McCloud said she didn’t have a job to make payments then, but she is now working full time at a minimum wage job that will enable her to pay restitution.
She explained that she wasn’t able to find a job with her felony conviction, so she participated in a convicted felon workforce program when she got out of jail. Although she received no pay in the workforce program, it enabled her to find her current job.
Gibb asked Fleenor whether it would be beneficial to jail McCloud so that she loses her job and taxpayers have to foot the bill to house her while incarcerated.
Fleenor said he understands Judge Gibb’s dilemma, but failing to punish defendants for not paying restitution would take away their incentive to pay. He suggested McCloud be allowed to serve time on weekends so she can keep her job.
Besides imposing the 15-day weekend jail sentence, Judge Gibb also ordered that McCloud start paying $50 per month on her restitution beginning in March. He told her she will “never get it paid off” at $25 per month.
McCloud was given until March 7 to start serving the jail sentence so that she can make arrangements for care of her children while she is in jail since her husband works on weekends.
According to evidence in McCloud’s case the monetary thefts came to light when a number of county citizens came to the treasurer’s office between April and June 2009 to question delinquency notices they had received. They all produced receipts for their payments and most identified McCloud as the person who had taken their payments.
Virginia State Police Special Agent B.J. Svard determined each of the citizens had paid their taxes in cash and each had been provided computer-generated receipts bearing McCloud’s initials.