June 28, 2013
Monica Lara, OVN correspondent
At her sentencing hearing in the Ventura County Superior Court Friday, Ojai resident Amber Workman was sentenced to spend 180 days in the county jail.
The 38-year-old was found guilty of embezzling money from the Ojai Eagles Youth Football organization.
“It was in the ballpark,” Julia Snyder, the deputy district attorney who prosecuted the case said of Workman’s sentence.
Her jail time is expected to start Aug. 27 with the option to qualify for work furlough, which would allow her to work during daytime and return to custody at night.
“I want her to keep her job,” Snyder said. “I want her to keep working so she can pay restitution.”
Workman’s attorney, Richard Hanawalt, had argued for a lesser sentence of 90 days in jail because she does not have a criminal history.
“I think it’s excessive considering the details of the case and the background of Workman,” Hanawalt said. “She has no history of committing a crime before or since.”
Workman was convicted of grand theft, a felony, for stealing more than $950. At the time of her arrest last June, she had been accused of stealing up to $49,000 of the non-profit organization’s money during her time as its treasurer. She held the position from January 2007 to December 2009.
Workman pleaded no contest April 30, which left it to the Superior Court Judge James Cloninger and the Ventura County Probation Department to determine the extent of her crime and her punishment.
Before announcing his decision Friday, Cloninger listened to attorneys from both sides present what they felt would be appropriate sentencing.
Hanawalt argued that the organization’s “ancient” bylines left expenditures up to interpretation, and Workman had no accounting experience.
Snyder argued that Hanawalt’s claims were not an accurate reflection of the organization.
“Most people can agree using funds for cable bills, your own expenditures, Verizon bills are not a misinterpretation,” Snyder said. “She did engage in a pattern of continuous spending and for extended period of time.”
Cloninger decided on the minimum jail time recommended by the probation department. He also ruled that in the future, she must disclose her conviction if she applies to work in a financial capacity.
“There doesn’t need to be bylaws in an organization to tell us not to steal from it,” Cloninger said in court. “180 days is appropriate.”
A restitution hearing will be scheduled to determine how much Workman will have to repay. The hearing is expected to be held within two weeks, according to Hanawalt.