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Former TCAT Accounting Assistant Pamela Johnson pleaded guilty yesterday to a charge of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a Class C Felony, for embezzling nearly $248,000 from TCAT from 2010 through 2014.

Tompkins County Judge John C. Rowley acknowledged in a court proceeding today that Johnson will pay $247,785.05 in restitution, which has already been recovered by the Tompkins County District Attorney's Office, from proceeds of the sale of her property.  The money is now in the District Attorney's trust account and will be released to TCAT in the very near future. Judge Rowley said that in the coming weeks he will review whether Johnson will pay roughly $37,000 for a special forensic audit and attorney fees associated with the crime.

In addition, the judge has ordered Johnson to serve 90 days in Tompkins County Jail, followed by 90 days of house arrest. He also ordered a five-year term of probation.  Judge Rowley ordered Johnson to begin her jail sentence on Friday, June 26.

TCAT Acting General Manager Alice Eccleston applauded the hard work and perseverance demonstrated by both the Ithaca City Police Department and the Tompkins County District Attorney's Office. Johnson was arrested in early April, 2014, shortly after TCAT's regular annual audit uncovered financial irregularities. At the time, TCAT immediately contacted police and suspended and subsequently terminated Johnson's employment.

"We offer our appreciation to Ithaca City Police Lead Investigator Fred Myers, who gathered evidence that led to the arrest of Mrs. Johnson, as well as to District Attorney Gwen Wilkinson and Assistant District Attorney Daniel Johnson (no relation to Pamela Johnson) for their persistence," Eccleston said. "In addition to his capable handling of the criminal prosecution, ADA Daniel Johnson initiated a civil proceeding early in the process that attached Pamela Johnson's assets so they could not be transferred or sold without court permission.  Judge Robert C. Mulvey's order in that civil proceeding preserved the assets so they could be available as restitution to TCAT."

Eccleston, in a victims' statement to the court, asked the judge for incarceration and for full restitution, citing the damages the crime has caused to TCAT's reputation; the strain it is has placed on an already financially struggling organization; and the stress it caused to a "very hard-working team of employees." She noted that TCAT is funded for much of its operational and capital needs through federal, state and local public dollars as well as from Cornell University. The embezzlement, she said "robbed the community of limited public funds needed to fulfill a very important public service."

TCAT Board of Directors Chairman Frank Proto, on behalf of the TCAT Board of Directors, also addressed the court in full support of Eccleston's statement. Proto also said that the seriousness of the crime, as well as the burden it has placed on TCAT, merits incarceration and full restitution.

After the hearing, Eccleston told TCAT employees in a company-wide memo: "It is a relief to end this year-long process and for TCAT to receive full restitution of the stolen money."

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