Press-Republican

February 26, 2013

Saranac Lake woman guilty of theft loses appeal

By DENISE A. RAYMO
Press-Republican

---- — SARANAC LAKE — A woman who stole more than $96,000 from her employer and claimed it was a loan lost her appeal in State Supreme Court.

Rebecca Farnsworth, 39, of 92 Wallace Wood Lane, Saranac Lake, was convicted of second-degree grand larceny in May 2010 after a Franklin County jury deliberated for about three hours.

She was sentenced three to nine years in state prison and ordered to pay $150,000 in restitution.

Farnsworth worked as the business manager and bookkeeper at Adirondack Audiology Associates for four years and used the company’s credit card to make $80,000 worth of personal purchases on it from 2004 to 2008.

Prosecutors said she used the card to take trips to Florida, buy groceries and cellphones for herself and family and pay for car repairs.

Farnsworth was also accused of giving herself raises totaling more than $74,000 and falsifying business records to hide it, but she was not convicted on that charge.

‘SHREDDED DOCUMENTS’

She claimed the missing money was a loan, but District Attorney Derek Champagne said her bosses didn’t know about the transactions, and no interest was charged.

In an appeal filed with the Third Judicial District of the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court, Farnsworth claimed there was not enough evidence presented to convict her.

She said she intended to pay the money back, so her actions didn’t constitute stealing.

But the judges said Farnsworth “made no payments between the time of her termination and the trial, and, a few days after the discovery of her expenditures, she was found shredding financial documents in her office.”

They also pointed to testimony from the business’s owner, Keith Walsh, who testified Farnsworth was specifically told the credit card was for company-related purposes only.

He also told the jury he had given her personal loans to pay for home construction and to help pay her mother’s debts.

Prosecutors said Farnsworth made more than 400 purchases and cash-advance transactions totaling $80,000 and another $21,000 in gasoline purchases and $6,000 in telephone bills.

TERM APPROPRIATE

At the same time, she gave herself annual salary increases, they said.

Her annual pay went from $35,000 in 2004 to $43,000 in 2005 then to $58,000 in 2006 and to $61,000 in 2007. She would have made $74,000 in 2008, but she was fired that February.

Walsh testified that employees were typically given a 3 percent annual raise in August and a Christmas bonus.

Farnsworth, who was released on parole in September 2012, also claimed her sentence was excessive and harsh.

But the judges said the prison term set by County Court Judge Robert G. Main Jr. was appropriate.

Letters he received before the sentencing described Farnsworth as a hardworking, devoted mother of two small children, and she had no criminal record.

The Appellate Court said Main “balanced those factors against the magnitude of the deceit involved in stealing — over the course of several years — such a large amount of money from a small health-care practice whose owners trusted and helped her.”

Email Denise A. Raymo: draymo@pressrepublican.com