The former office manager at a western Pennsylvania car dealership has been sentenced to 3 years in federal prison for stealing nearly $600,000, losses that nearly bankrupted the business.
Deborah Cassini, 63, of New Castle, pleaded guilty in August to wire fraud and filing false tax returns which didn't reflect the money she stole from Three Rivers Volkswagen in Peters Township from 2006 to 2011. She was sentenced Wednesday by a U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon, who rejected Cassini's requests for leniency and home confinement instead of prison.
"She stole until there was nothing left to steal," Bissoon said.
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Cassini accessed the dealerships bank accounts online to make more than 160 payments on her credit cards, as well as six car payments on her BMW. She also gave herself 98 additional unauthorized paychecks and otherwise skimmed cash from the business and cashed business checks for her own benefit.
Defense attorney Douglas Sughrue argued that Cassini had a gambling addiction and played slot machines to deal with depression and her other problems.
"Instead of cognitive therapy, she went to the casinos," Sughrue said.
But the judge rejected that argument, noting Cassini spent the money on things other than slot machines.
The thefts were hidden by Cassini's fake accounting entries and bogus financial statements she issued. Although Cassini was charged with stealing nearly $700,000, she was sentenced for and ordered to repay about $600,000, the amount prosecutors were able to directly trace to her.
"We've gotten through the worst," said Kathi Tennant, the dealership's president, noting the business has yet to fully recover from the thefts.
"This was a long, destructive course of embezzlement and lies," Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee Karl told the judge. "And it nearly destroyed Three Rivers Volkswagen."