A former court clerk who pleaded guilty to embezzlement must pay back more than $1 million, at $600 a month, a Mississippi judge has ruled.
"We can all do the math," Pike County Circuit Court Judge David Strong told Greta Dubuclet Patterson, 46. "We all understand that $600 a month is not going to get you to a million anytime soon."
It would take more than 141 years at that rate, The Enterprise-Journal reported. But Strong told the former McComb court clerk on Friday that if she misses a payment, she'll go to prison or a restitution center, where she would live and be driven to and from work.
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Patterson pleaded guilty in December. Strong sentenced her to restitution and 10 years of house arrest, suspending eight years. Friday's hearing decided how much she must repay.
District Attorney Dee Bates said a city investigation found that Patterson had embezzled more than $1 million since 2009.
Mayor Whitney Rawlings said he really wanted Patterson to go to prison, but Bates told him that he couldn't get both restitution and prison time.
"I'm disappointed and I know the citizens of McComb are certainly disappointed at the way this thing has come out," Rawlings said.
If a mayor were caught embezzling $1 million, "they'd have thrown away the key," he said.
Bates said that if Patterson goes to prison, parole and other early-release policies could free her in less than two years. Officials agreed that $600 a month was a realistic amount to expect, he said.
"The one thing that we want for the citizens ... is to get every penny of restitution that we can, and if she doesn't make the payments, she will be housed," Bates added.