ESCANABA - An Escanaba woman apologized in court Friday prior to being taken to jail for embezzling more than $43,000 from Harbor Tower Apartments. The sentencing was handed down in Delta County Circuit Court.
Mary Lynn Sweeney, 62, former director of the 174-apartment complex, was charged in February with a felony of a public officer embezzling public funds during a seven-year period.
After her arrest, Sweeney paid a $43,700 cashier's check as restitution to the Escanaba Housing Commission which manages the apartment complex. She pleaded no contest to embezzling the funds Friday.
Jenny Lancour | Daily Press
Mary Lynn Sweeney, of Escanaba, is escorted out of court by a sheriff’s deputy while her attorney, Trent Stupak, looks on Friday.
"What I did was terribly wrong," Sweeney said, offering her "sincere apology." She said she regrets what she did and is sorry for the repercussions her actions had on the housing commission and apartment residents.
Prior to her being arrested, a deal was made between the prosecutor's office and Sweeney: if she pleaded straight up and
paid restitution, she would have no jail time because her medical condition would be a burden on the county jail staff. Her medical condition was never disclosed.
In March, Sweeney pleaded no contest to the charge with the understanding she could withdraw her plea if the judge ruled differently.
Last month, Judge Stephen Davis announced he would not be following the prosecutor's recommendation which included no jail time. Sweeney's attorney, Trent Stupak, withdrew his client's no contest plea.
During Friday's hearing, Stupak withdrew the previous withdrawal and the court entered a no contest plea. The attorney requested the judge order a long probationary period for his client.
Stupak asked the court to not impose jail time for Sweeney because she has no prior criminal record, she cooperated with law enforcement and the court process, she paid restitution, and she has chronic medical problems. A letter from Sweeney's physician said jail would be detrimental to her health because of her severe limitations and physical needs, Stupak added.
Prior to sentencing Sweeney, Davis explained that when a crime is committed, punishment is expected. He ordered her to 90 days in the county jail from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. with credit for one day already served.
Davis also sentenced her to an additional 75 days of house arrest where she will be monitored after being released from her jail term. She was ordered to pay $468 in fines and costs. She must have no contact with Harbor Towers personnel or the housing commission, he added.
Federal and local officials began investigating suspicious activity at Harbor Tower after police received a tip last summer of inappropriate actions taking place there. While director at Harbor Tower from 2005 to February 2012, Sweeney allegedly embezzled money by taking cash from a bill changer in the laundry room, according to Escanaba Public Safety.
During Friday's hearing in circuit court, Diane Bennett, chairperson of the housing commission, read a victims' impact statement urging the judge to sentence Sweeney to jail despite her medical condition. Bennett said Sweeney took advantage of the board, residents, and the American taxpayers when she stole the funds.
Bennett said Sweeney's actions also degraded Harbor Towers' state rating from high performance to standard. Budget cutbacks, including a board paycut and personnel adjustments, had to be made to offset the repercussions of Sweeney's actions, added Bennett.
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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143, firstname.lastname@example.org