Former Sand Cay manager Judy Paul was sentenced Sept. 13 to three years in prison followed by 10 years of probation on a charge of scheming to defraud.
Judge Thomas W. Krug also ordered Paul, 49, to pay $200,000 restitution to Sand Cay.
Krug also agreed to allow Paul to post a supersedeas bond of $100,000 while her attorneys appeal the case on the conditions that she live with her parents in Ohio and doesn’t take a job that involves handling money while her case is pending.
A Manatee County jury convicted Paul in July on charges of grand theft of more than $100,000 and of scheming to defraud in the amount of $50,000 or more. The conviction stems from a series of checks totaling more than $200,000 that Paul allegedly deposited into her personal account during the three-and-a-half years she worked at the 60-unit Longboat Key resort.
Paul was fired in 2010 after a routine audit revealed inconsistencies. When confronted, she insisted she had a verbal agreement with the board’s treasurer, which police said records did not support.
Prosecutors sought a 10-year sentence followed by 20 years of probation. Attorneys for Paul, who has been held in Manatee County Jail since her conviction, argued for a sentence of time served followed by 10 years of probation.
Krug sentenced Paul, who has no previous criminal record, on the lesser of the two charges.
Three Sand Cay board members testified for the state during the two-hour hearing about the financial troubles the theft had caused the association and about how they once considered Paul a friend.
Board member Bob Fisher said he believed Paul came to Sand Cay with the intent of stealing, noting that she wrote the first check to herself just seven days after she was hired. He said that Paul’s purchases with Sand Cay money included spa treatments, Victoria’s Secret items, custom accessories for her Corvette and plane tickets for her family.
Court records also show that Paul wrote a $12,847.20 check to MRHD — an acronym for Manatee River Harley-Davidson — but subsequently insisted the letters stood for Mariner’s Risk Homeowner’s Division.
Joseph DiMario, the board’s treasurer with whom Paul claimed to have an agreement, testified that he suffered physical and mental anguish as the result of the “baseless and false allegations” Paul made in her own defense. He testified that Paul produced forged documents of a nonexistent agreement between them in her defense.
“I was stunned that Ms. Paul could be so devious,” DiMario said.
But Judge Krug also received at least 10 letters of support from Paul’s family members and friends.
Paul’s aunt, Christine Linder, told the judge that her niece has worked hard since she was a young teenager, starting her career in the hotel industry and working her way up to property management.
“Judy is a good and decent person,” she said. “This is not her. We’re all hoping that, eventually, the truth is going to come out.”
Paul, who wept frequently throughout the hearing, testified on her own behalf and maintained her innocence.
“I loved my job at Sand Cay, and I loved all of you,” she said to board members from the witness stand. “I trusted all of you.”
She maintained the board told her when she was hired that she would communicate issues to a single board member to streamline processes because most of the board lives out of state.
She argued that she could begin paying back whatever restitution the judge ordered sooner if she didn’t go to prison.
“I’m not afraid of working hard,” Paul said. “I’ve worked hard my whole life. I wasn’t a thief my whole life, and I wasn’t a thief at Sand Cay.”
But Judge Krug explained when sentencing Paul that restitution without punishment wouldn’t have a deterrent effect.
Fisher expressed satisfaction with the ruling after court.
“I think it’s fair and adequate,” he told the Longboat Observer.
Judy Paul’s attorneys filed a notice of appeal Sept. 16. A Sept. 9 motion filed by Paul’s attorneys states that her appeal will be “based on at least three legitimate assignments of error.”
Paul has claimed that she fronted the association money and that the prosecution didn’t account for the advances. The motion argues that there was “insufficient evidence for the jury to find that a theft occurred” and there was no way for the jury to determine whether the checks written to Paul were thefts or “good-faith reimbursements.”
The motion also challenges the admissibility of check copies that were entered into evidence instead of the original checks.
It also states the jury heard improper testimony about bookkeeping from a board member who was not familiar with the system.