A Cheektowaga woman convicted 18 years ago of embezzling $120,000 from her Buffalo employer was sentenced Monday to one to three years in prison for stealing nearly $92,000 from other Buffalo companies where she worked as a bookkeeper two years ago.
State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia imposed the prison term on Marilee Leach, 60, of Walden Avenue, rejecting pleas by her attorney for probation or a split jail-probation sentence.
Defense attorney Timothy J. Pawarski told the judge that Leach had made restitution for most of the money she took from the two victims and that she and her husband were working on repaying the remaining $27,000.
The judge said Leach’s restitution efforts and a letter on her behalf from one of her victims who has received full restitution worked in her favor.
But he said he was concerned about her 1996 conviction in U.S. District Court in Buffalo for embezzling $120,000 from Belmont Management/Belmont Construction on Broadway. Leach served one year in federal prison in that case.
“Not only did you do wrong to these two companies here, you also did the same thing to another company in the mid-1990s,” the judge told Leach. “This is the third time that a company has suffered a substantial loss of money because of your actions.”
The judge said he had received a letter from Bruce Baird, president of Belmont, about the effect of that embezzlement on the company.
Baird told The Buffalo News that although Belmont was reimbursed through its insurance coverage, it had to pay a $10,000 deductible and had difficulty getting a new insurance policy. He also spoke of a feeling of betrayal, noting that Leach had worked at Belmont for years before the theft was discovered.
The judge said he would have given Leach a lot more prison time if she had not made any restitution.
Leach pleaded guilty in November to two counts of third-degree grand larceny and faced a maximum prison term of seven years on each of the counts. While the judge imposed the same one-to-three-year prison term on each count, he ordered the sentences to run concurrently.
Leach admitted stealing $52,419 by writing unauthorized checks to herself between Dec. 31, 2007, and Nov. 15, 2012, while working for Harbour Place Marine Sales at 2192 Niagara St. Prosecutors said she has repaid that amount.
She also admitted that she took money from Acqua Restaurant and Banquets, also at 2192 Niagara, between May 25, 2011, and Dec. 9, 2012.
She signed a confession of judgment for $39,515 for William Koessler, the owner of Acqua, who also owns Classic Events at the Lafayette, which runs the banquet rooms at Hotel @ The Lafayette.
The judgment covers about $26,000 she took from Acqua and $13,000 she stole from Classic Events, where she also worked as bookkeeper, according to John C. Doscher, chief of the Special Investigations and Prosecution Bureau in the Erie County District Attorney’s Office.
Assistant District Attorney Gary Ertel said the $39,515 loss was covered by insurance. He said the insurance company can collect from Leach on the confession of judgment she signed.
Molly Koessler, wife of William Koessler, said Leach was fired from Acqua and Classic Events in December 2012 when the thefts were discovered. She said Leach was arrested when she returned from a trip, adding that Leach took lavish trips around the world four or five times a year.
Pawarski, Leach’s attorney, said his client had given him $12,424 to be paid toward the $39,515 debt to Koessler. He said she and her husband hope to get $15,000 by selling their interest in a time-share. He said they both have jobs and plan to pay down the rest of the debt through their weekly earnings. He asked that she be sentenced to probation or jail and probation so she could continue working to pay off the debt.
He noted that the president of Harbor Place Marine had written a letter to the judge recommending she be sentenced to community service and probation.
Leach told the judge she was remorseful for the pain and shame she has brought to her family again. She said she was doing all she can to pay back the money and would never embezzle again.