Leniency is denied in felony theft case

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SANDPOINT — First District Judge Barbara Buchanan is turning down a request for leniency for a Washington state woman who embezzled from her former employer.

Pamela Ann McGrath was ordered on Monday to serve up to a year in prison in the Idaho Department of Correction’s retained jurisdiction program after pleading guilty to a charge of grand theft, also known as a rider. McGrath, a former escrow officer at Sandpoint Title Insurance, wrote two checks to herself totaling at least $3,859 using company funds, resulting in charges of felony theft, in addition to forgery and burglary.

The latter two charges were dismissed in exchange for pleading guilty to the theft charge, according to court documents.

Deputy Prosecutor Roger Hanlon recommended three months of local incarceration and a suspended one- to three-year term, while Deputy Public Defender Luke Hagelberg sought a suspended one- to two-year term.

“This is her first conviction,” Hagelberg said during McGrath’s sentencing hearing in 1st District Court. “She has no priors.”

Buchanan, however, opted to place McGrath in the state’s retained jurisdiction program because her misconduct was a pattern rather than a one-time lapse in judgment.

Allegations that committed similar misconduct at an escrow company in Snohomish County, Wash., emerged during a presentence investigation.

Within hours of the sentence’s imposition, Hagelberg filed a motion to have it reduced under Idaho Criminal Rules, court records show.

“This motion is made as a plea for leniency,” Hagelberg said in the motion.

Buchanan denied the motion on Tuesday, court documents indicate.

McGrath, 53, is charged with identity theft in Snowhomish County for using her position as an escrow officer to cash $8,447 in checks from company funds, according to a probable cause affidavit. The case is pending.

Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at kkinnaird@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.

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