Cortland woman gets 90-day jail sentence for stealing $247K from TCAT

ITHACA, N.Y. — A woman convicted of stealing $247,000 from TCAT was sentenced Wednesday afternoon to 90 days in jail, 90 days of house arrest and five years of probation.

Pamela Johnson was arrested last April after embezzling roughly $247,000 from TCAT when she wrote and cashed checks to feed her gambling addiction.

pamela johnson

Pamela Johnson

She pled guilty to felony second-degree grand larceny as part of a plea deal and has paid back about $247,000 in restitution after selling some real estate.

Judge John Rowley will decide if Johnson is also responsible for paying for $7,200 in attorney fees or the $30,000 audit the company underwent at the request of the state and federal government.

In a packed courtroom, two TCAT representatives spoke about the impact of Johnson's actions on the company and the community.

"The event shattered our funders, our community and trust in our organization," said Alice Eccleston, TCAT's acting general manager. "It will take many years for us to recover."

TCAT's board of director, Frank Proto, said the board stands with the company's request that Johnson face jail time for her actions.

Her lawyer, Frank Policelli, argued that his client has lost everything she's worked for her entire life, has been sober from a gambling addiction for nearly a year, and has lost about 100 pounds in the past 15 months. He said his client should face five years of probation without incarceration.

Johnson said during the hearing that her actions caused the end of her 32-year marriage, has put her at odds with her three sons and that she filled out more than 3,000 applications for employment before anyone hired her.

"I'm deeply, deeply sorry, and I want to apologize to everyone at TCAT for what my actions were," she said. She said she made a purposeful error during an audit so she would get caught stealing because she could not fight her "compulsive addiction to gambling."

Before reading the sentence, Judge Rowley said he understands that gambling is an addiction that can take over lives.

He said records show Johnson was fired from her employment and pretended to go to work but was instead going to a casino. When a search warrant was executed at her home, she refused to leave a casino and allegedly told her husband that it was his problem to deal with.

"Now, obviously, you look back at that and you have to call it insanity," Rowley said.

However, he said people of monetary means who commit crimes cannot just repay what they stole. He said he often sees people with addictions convicted of crimes and sentenced to more than six months in jail, which was the maximum amount of time Johnson could have served due to the terms of the plea deal.

"With regard to your addiction, it's impossible to measure whether you are getting what you need in order to avoid relapse — repeat — of your conduct," he said. "I do not accept promises."

Johnson burst into tears and began sobbing when Rowley read the sentence. When she left the courtroom, she sat at a bench in the hallway and wailed as several family members who attended the hearing consoled her.

She is ordered to report to the Tompkins County Jail on Friday, where she will be taken into custody.

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