Embezzlement from Janesville business leads to five-year prison term

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Nico Savidge
Friday, August 2, 2013

JANESVILLE—Feeling the need to “send a message” that large-scale business theft will not be punished lightly, a Rock County judge sentenced a Beloit woman to five years in prison for embezzling from a Janesville company Friday afternoon.

Prosecutors were not seeking prison time for 42-year-old Connie L. Corcoran, who pleaded guilty in March to stealing more than $240,000 from Janesville Brick and Tile in the years she worked there.

Assistant District Attorney Mason Braunschweig and defense attorney Lane Fitzgerald made a joint recommendation that Corcoran receive probation.

Corcoran had no significant criminal history and could be effectively treated without being incarcerated, Braunschweig said.

A pre-sentence investigation showed Corcoran's risk to re-offend was “the lowest that I've ever seen of any client I've ever represented,” Fitzgerald said.

Citing the length of time that Corcoran stole from the business and the amount of money she took, Judge Richard Werner handed down a 10-year sentence—five years in prison and five of extended supervision.

“You stole a substantial amount of money from your employer over five years,” Werner told Corcoran. “It wasn't a one-time, grab-and-go; it was an ongoing crime.”

He did not want Corcoran or others thinking they could commit long-running crimes against businesses “and not go to prison,” Werner said.

Corcoran pleaded guilty in March to three felony counts: two of theft in a business setting of more than $10,000 and one of credit card fraud, valued between $2,500 and $5,000, court records show.

While working as an office manager for Janesville Brick and Tile, Corcoran would have company officials sign blank checks for her—purportedly so she could have them on hand when vendors needed payments, according to a criminal complaint.

Corcoran, however, used 105 of those checks for herself.

She embezzled $240,315 from Janesville Brick and Tile in the process, authorities said, while also charging personal items to a company credit card.

Corcoran used the checks and credit card to buy a lawn mower, dental care, event tickets and a television, among other items, authorities said.

As part of the plea agreement, two other charges of theft in a business setting of more than $10,000 were dismissed but read into the record.

The thefts badly hurt the company, owner Doug Kelly said in a prepared statement at Friday's hearing.

“Along with our money, she stole our reputation, our pride and our accomplishments,” Kelly said. “Today, I feel like the fool of the year for every year this person was in our employ.”

Janesville Brick and Tile ran into financial trouble, and Kelly had to take out a mortgage on his home to keep it afloat, he said.

“It's just fortunate that business survived,” Werner said.

Although she has paid some of the money back, Corcoran still owes the business nearly $200,000, prosecutors said, plus additional costs from loans the business still has.

Another Janesville Brick and Tile employee, Michelle M. Buggs, has also been charged with embezzlement in a similar case.

Like Corcoran, police say, Buggs forged a number of checks for herself, eventually stealing more than $50,000 from Janesville Brick and Tile, according to a criminal complaint.

Buggs was scheduled for a trial next week on two charges of theft in a business setting of more than $10,000, but the trial has been pushed back until October.

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