An Alden woman was sentenced Friday to one to three years in prison for embezzling from her employer, Norampac Industries Inc., by issuing payroll checks in the names of 93 employees who either were out on disability or had recently been terminated. She then deposited the checks into her account after forging their signatures.
The fraudulent checks that Lynn Montgomery issued totaled $266,866.
But she cost the company $386,927 because of the withholding and other expenses related to payroll checks, prosecutors said.
Her scheme unraveled when a local bank alerted the Erie County Sheriff’s Office about suspicious deposits being made into her account.
A bank employee recognized the name of one of the other employees but discovered the signature on the check did not match.
The sheriff’s investigation found Montgomery had been generating fraudulent payroll checks from Norampac while working at the company’s Walden Avenue office since early 2005.
A presentence report on Montgomery, 47, of Sullivan Road, revealed that she issued the illegal checks monthly at first, but then did so weekly when she found how easy it was to get the money.
“It wasn’t like you made one mistake and grabbed $200,000,” State Supreme Court Justice M. William Boller told Montgomery during the court hearing.
The report also said Montgomery rationalized her actions because she gave some of the ill-gotten money to others whom she felt needed it more than the company, Boller said.
“It’s easy to be generous when using other people’s money,” the judge told her.
Montgomery had faced a maximum prison sentence of 19 years. She pleaded guilty in April to second-degree grand larceny and first-degree offering a false instrument for filing, according to prosecutors Candace K. Vogel and Gary M. Ertel of the Erie County District Attorney’s Office.
Boller credited Montgomery for coming up with partial restitution, which he said reduced her jail term.
But he said embezzling cases have become an epidemic. “I am sending you to jail to punish you,” he told her.
But he said he also wants her incarceration to serve as a deterrent to others who would steal from their employers or other entities.
He ordered Montgomery to pay $266,866 in further restitution.
“Ma’am, going to jail doesn’t forgive the balance you owe,” he told her.
The false instrument count stems from filing a false state tax return. She owes $17,258 to the state for the unreported money she received.
“I’m sorry to Norampac,” Montgomery tearfully told the judge. “I’m sorry to my family. I’m sorry to the employees of Norampac. I’m sorry to the court.”
Montgomery said she has undergone “significant therapy” to understand why she stole the money.
“I recognize my actions violated the company’s trust in me,” she said.
Since her arrest, Montgomery said she has worked 40 to 60 hours a week at three local companies to earn money for her restitution. The companies withdrew full-time job offers when background checks revealed her arrest.
More recently, she has worked from 3:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at a local beverage company, which allowed her to be home when her 12-year-old daughter returned from school.
“It breaks my heart to think of my daughter,” she said, in addition to “two sons I let down.”
Her crime has embarrassed her family, she said. Now, her imprisonment will disrupt her family.
Montgomery brought a $100,000 check to her sentencing as a first payment toward her restitution.
“She was able to come up with $100,000 over eight months,” said Elizabeth A. Holmes, her defense attorney.
“It’s better than nothing,“ Boller said of the check.
An attempt to cash in her husband’s 401(k) account under a hardship provision was denied, Montgomery said.
When the judge asked why she did not sell her family’s two race cars and camper, Montgomery said they’re old and not worth anything.