A former billing clerk in Chesterfield County, Virginia was convicted of welfare fraud in 2006. Ten years later, she proved that she had learned no lessons from the misdemeanor conviction when she was convicted of embezzling more than $900,000 from her former employer, the Richmond area ob/gyn practice Virginia Physicians for Women. At her trial, Edith Harris stated, “I can’t help it,” reported the Richmond Times-Dispatch
. “I needed the money … and it was there,” she added. “And it became a habit.” No apologies and no remorse: Harris surrendered none of her ill-gotten gains voluntarily, testified the attorney who had worked on recovering the stolen funds, and transferred funds to hide them. ““It was a fight every step of the way,” he said.
In addition to the $100,000 the medical practice spent on investigating and correcting her crime, it was forced to cancel merit raises for employees, hold off on new hires, and eliminate the CFO’s position. Harris, however, had spent the patients’ money she stole on living large. The Chesterfield prosecutor submitted a three-page itemized list of luxuries to which Harris had treated herself and three of her children. The kids each got approximately $50,000 to more than $80,000 in spending money, in addition to gifts of a car, a truck and a scooter. What a generous mom: according to the list, she also stole and spent “$8,250 for University of Virginia football season tickets, $2,000 for UVa basketball season tickets, $1,250 for UVa baseball season tickets, and $4,400 for a family trip to the Chick-fil-A college football bowl,” according to richmond.com.
Although her defense attorney brought witnesses like a licensed clinical social worker who said it appeared Harris suffered from kleptomania or some impulse control disorder, the judge denied her attorney’s plea that she be placed in a diversion program, undergo mental health treatment and/or receive home incarceration. “Instead, he sentenced her to 50 years in prison with all but five years suspended” (richmond.com). Maybe, during her five years’ incarceration, Harris will grasp the concept that crime doesn’t pay.
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