A Lewiston woman accused of embezzling about $174,000 from her former employer was sentenced Wednesday to four months in jail and 10 years probation.
Donya R. Caldwell, 42, entered an Alford plea to one count of felony grand theft and an additional grand theft charge was dismissed pursuant to a plea agreement. An Alford plea is an admission by a defendant that a jury could convict based on evidence gathered, but the defendant maintains innocence.
Caldwell has maintained her innocence throughout the case, which began with charges in May 2017.
Prosecution and defense attorneys went to criminal mediation and arrived at an agreement for probation and resitution at $18,000. Nez Perce County 2nd District Judge Jeff Brudie rejected that binding plea agreement. The only recommendation agreed upon at sentencing was the $18,000 restitution, which was ordered payable to Lewiston RV. Brudie imposed five months of jail and suspended 30 days of that jail term. He allowed Caldwell to self-report to jail by Oct. 21 and she can apply for work release. If Caldwell is unsuccessful during probation, she could be sentenced to any amount of a suspended two-to-10-year prison term.
Caldwell was an office manager for Lewiston Auto and RV, but was fired in November 2016 after bookkeeping errors were discovered. Over at least the previous two years, Caldwell had pocketed cash sales after she was supposed to deposit cash and checks at the bank, according to court records. Deposits at the bank did not match receipts at the business and a total of $174,485.27 was missing. When confronted about the discrepancies, Caldwell was “unable to explain what happened,” according to records.
Other employees reported to Lewiston police that Caldwell was the only one who did the company’s bookkeeping, through a software program that allowed Caldwell to edit the monthly end balance to hide the cash discrepancies.
Caldwell chose not to speak prior to being sentenced.
Brudie said he rejected the initial plea agreement because he thought the charge warranted some term of punishment. Brudie said Caldwell abused the trust of her employer and stole money.
“(Caldwell) has accepted absolutely no responsibility or demonstrated any kind of remorse of any kind for this offense,” Brudie said. “The Alford plea doesn’t make a difference to me. You’re still in front of the court as a guilty person.”
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