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11:40 AM Sun, Feb. 17th

Former paint employee sentenced to jail

A Mohave County Superior Court judge told the former bookkeeper of a Kingman painting company Thursday she can stay out of jail if she repays money she stole from her former employer.

Judge Steven Conn sentenced Carol Sawyer to six months in jail to be served beginning July 1.

Conn said if she paid back some or all of the $75,000 in restitution by June 15, she would serve only part or none of her jail time.

If she pays back $25,000 to the painting company owned by Dale Sanderson by June 15, she will serve 120 days of the jail term.

If she pays back $50,000 by that date, she will serve only 60 days in jail.

"I'll start with the assumption that you stole $75,000," Conn told her.

"What you did with the money isn't relevant.

The victims are out $75,000.

They worked for it and you took it."

If she does not pay back the money, Conn said, Sawyer will serve every day of the jail time but would be eligible for work release.

She would still have to pay restitution on a monthly basis.

Conn also sentenced Sawyer to five years probation.

In July, Sawyer pleaded guilty to one count of theft for stealing more than $25,000 from Sanderson's residential and commercial painting company between 1997 and August 2001.

As part of the plea agreement, she agreed to pay the $75,000 in restitution.

Three other counts of felony theft were dismissed.

Sawyer's attorney, Lee Novak, in asking for little or no jail time, said his client does not have a prior criminal record and sufferes from a medical condition that made her practically disabled.

Novak said she would be an excellent candidate for electronic monitoring.

Chief Deputy Mohave County Attorney Jace Zack said electronic monitoring would not amount to any form of punishment.

Zack also listed off several distinctions between Sawyer's case with other embezzling cases.

The victims were owners of a small business.

Usually, embezzlers steal from larger corporations, he added.

Zack also said the theft forced Sanderson into debt and into arrears with taxes.

He said Sanderson's reputation as a business owner suffered.

He said Sawyer did not show any remorse, even testifying at the restitution hearing that she did nothing wrong.

Novak countered that he represented other embezzling defendants who served any substantial jail time only if they had criminal records.

He also rejected the argument that Sawyer was not remorseful.

"Just because she didn't come into court crying," he said.

When asked to speak on her behalf, Sawyer refused.

However, Sanderson did speak to the court.

"She doesn't realize how much she set my wife and I back financially," Sanderson said.

Both Zack and Sanderson said afterward they were satisfied with the sentence.

"If she doesn't pay it back, then…" Sanderson said, gesturing to indicate Sawyer would go to jail.

During a previous restitution hearing, Sanderson testified Sawyer wrote checks out to herself using money that was suppose to pay his nephew, who was an employee.

Sawyer, 40, who is not in custody, previously insisted she borrowed about $25,000 over the years.

She claimed she tried to pay back the money by working for free before she left the company last year.

When Sawyer failed to cancel a check after Sanderson's wife sent another check to Sawyer, who was out-of-state, Sanderson became suspicious and notified police.

Sanderson estimated that Sawyer stole more than $111,000 during four years working for his contracting painting company, which he started 13 years ago.

Of one of the charges that were dismissed, Sawyer was accused of stealing more than $3,000 by issuing double payroll checks to herself, according to court records.

She also had been charged with stealing checks by keeping the proceeds of company checks made out to "cash." And she was charged with stealing $4,620 in proceeds from a personal check paid the business.