Restitution Plan Leads To Reduced Sentence For Embezzlement

SNOW HILL — A Salisbury woman, who pleaded guilty last month to carrying out a two-year theft scheme involving thousands of dollars against the Berlin golf course where she worked as a bookkeeper, was sentenced Tuesday to a year in jail, most of which was suspended as long as she continues on a restitution plan.

In October, a Maryland State Police trooper investigated an initial theft report filed by Ed Colbert, owner and president of the Deer Run Golf Club in Berlin.

The investigation focused on the golf club’s bookkeeper, identified as Amanda Carol Lubiniecki, 27, of Salisbury. According to charging documents, Lubiniecki was the point of contact for Deer Run for Scott and Associates, a Berlin accounting and property management firm which handed the golf course’s accounting.

In an apparent case of the apple not falling far from the tree, Scott and Associates President William Scott last year was convicted on multiple counts of theft and theft scheme after bilking several resort area condominium associations out of over $800,000 from various operating and reserve accounts. Scott was ultimately found guilty on six counts and was sentenced to a combined 55 years in jail, all but 10 of which then suspended.

When Scott’s company was dissolved in the wake of his theft scheme convictions, Deer Run hired Lubiniecki to continue the golf course’s accounting. After Colbert noticed irregularities in the golf course’s books, an investigation was triggered and ultimately pointed to Lubiniecki as the suspect. The investigation revealed a total of 74 checks totaling $45,182 had been issued to Lubiniecki from the Deer Run operations account from July 2009 to October 2011.

During a subsequent interview with Maryland State Police investigators, Lubiniecki admitted issuing all of the checks to herself and then endorsing them for payment. According to charging documents, Lubiniecki told investigators she was sorry for her conduct and wanted to make restitution to the course. Lubiniecki also explained to investigators the stolen money was spent on shopping and paying monthly bills.

In May, Lubiniecki pleaded guilty to one count of theft scheme from $10,000 to under $100,000. Prior to Lubiniecki’s sentencing hearing on Tuesday, it was revealed she had submitted a restitution check for $13,000, representing about a third of what she still owes Colbert and Deer Run. Before Groton considered sentencing, the court heard from Colbert, who said his company, and perhaps more importantly his family, was hurt by Lubiniecki’s actions.

“It was a pretty drastic situation,” he said. “We had a cash flow problem and it hurt tremendously.”

Colbert said Lubiniecki was treated as a family member, even while she was stealing money from the company.

“She was like a daughter to us,” he said. “She was a friend and we were all very close.”

Directing his attention to Lubiniecki, Colbert expressed disdain with the defendant’s actions.

“I can’t believe you stole from us,” he said. “We treated you like a daughter. I hope the Lord forgives you.”

Defense attorney James Anthenelli told the court Lubiniecki had never been in trouble with the law before and said his client’s thefts became an addiction, not unlike an addiction to alcohol or drugs.

“She got behind on her rent and it started out with a $500 check and the feeling I can pay this back no problem,” he said. “Then it was another $500 check, then a $1,000 and then habitually time and time again until she got into an abyss.”

Anthenelli said Lubiniecki has since been employed by an insurance firm in Cambridge. Anthenelli said she was licensed with the firm and that the current conviction could threaten that license, but the company was standing by her.

“They think so highly of her that they want to keep her on despite of all this,” he said.

For her part, Lubiniecki told the court he theft scheme spiraled out of control and it got “easier and easier each time.”

“I can only say how sorry I am,” she said. “I understand it’s difficult to forgive me and accept my apology, but I hope we can move forward.”

Groton said with Lubiniecki’s close relationship with her employer, she likely could have asked for help with the rent before embarking on a two-year theft scheme.

“It sounds like your pride got in the way and your pride was more important than stealing from someone who trusted you,” he said. “Over two periods of time, they’re treating you as family. How can you go along with that relationship when you know you’re stealing from them.”

With that said, Groton sentenced Lubiniecki to a year in jail with all but one month suspended. He also fined her $1,000, which he also suspended provided she sticks to her restitution program, of which she still owes over $32,000.

“The reason much of this is suspended is because restitution is being made,” he said. “If restitution isn’t made, you’ll be back here facing another 11 months in jail.”