Woman who stole from Niles loses appeal, must keep surrendering retirement check

WARREN — A woman convicted of stealing more than $140,000 from Niles when she worked for the city as a treasury clerk lost an appeal and will continue signing over her entire retirement check as restitution.

Phyllis Wilson, 64, filed the appeal through attorney Michael Partlow in the 11th District Court of Appeals. She pleaded guilty in 2015 to third-degree felony theft in office, was sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to hand over the $1,100 retirement check she was earning monthly through the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System.

Appeals Court Judge Thomas Wright penned the ruling, affirming Trumbull County Common Pleas Court Judge Andrew D. Logan’s original sentence.

Wilson’s appeal states she shouldn’t have been made to hand over her entire check because of her age, her retirement status and because the check was her only monthly income, according to Wright’s ruling.

Logan should have considered Wilson’s ability to pay the restitution before ordering her to turn it over, as trial courts usually do, Partlow argued.

But, Ohio’s theft in office statute requires the court to order full restitution when the offender is a public official, Wright states.

The statute “does not merely allow a trial court to order restitution when the circumstances so dictate, but instead expressly mandates that such an order must be made,” Wright states. “The provision further mandates that the restitution order cover all of the actual loss resulting from the offense.”

The statute reflects a “well-settled public policy that a public official should always be held accountable for the loss of any public funds under her control,” Wright states.

Logan also ordered Wilson to work a steady job, and she presented no evidence that she could not, Wright states.

Wilson worked for Niles for about 25 years and only retired as a “direct result of a gambling addiction,” which is under control now, Wright states.

It would take more than 10 years for Wilson to pay off the $142,272 if her retirement check were her only payment toward it.

As a treasury clerk, Wilson was responsible for depositing city funds, but instead kept some and “ultimately lost the money gambling in local casinos,” Wright states. She decided to retire so she “would not be tempted to take additional funds,” the ruling states. Wilson expressed remorse for the crime at sentencing.

A state audit revealed the missing money, and according to the indictment, the embezzlement dates back to 2009.

Judges Timothy P. Cannon and Diane V. Grendell concurred with Wright’s ruling, but Grendell in judgment only.