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Attorney Requests Increased Restitution from Former Paralegal

Pennsylvania attorney Jeff Connelly, a victim of embezzlement by his former paralegal, has requested that the Erie County Court of Common Pleas increase the amount of her $300.00 per month court-ordered restitution payment. In April 2005, Kelly Mitchell (formerly Little), pled no contest to two counts of theft from Connelly’s firm and agreed to re-pay approximately $74,000.00 stolen over a three-year period. Connelly was not insured for the losses. (Mitchell was also sentenced to seven to twenty-three months in prison and agreed to repay an additional $12,000.00 taken from local attorney J. Gregory Moore as part of her plea.)Mitchell was ordered to pursue additional income to re-pay Connelly, and since the initial order, probation officials have periodically increased her payment to the present $300.00 per month. While she is current in her payments, she still owes Connelly over $63,000.00 and her debt is not subject to interest.Connelly wants Mitchell to get another job so that she can increase her payments. Defendants are typically required by the local probation department to pay 7.5 percent of their net income as restitution, but court records do not indicate that Mitchell’s current earnings at her husband’s beverage wholesaler business have been verified.Connelly’s request may affect the way local courts order restitution in other cases. Judge Michael E. Dunlavey is reviewing the county’s restitution’s guidelines with his fellow judges to determine if changes are warranted. Judge Dunlavey said after the hearing, “We can’t allow a criminal debtor to determine whether they are going to repay a legitimate debt on their own terms.”I hope that Judge Dunlavey orders a review of Mitchell’s current income and increases her restitution payments if the facts support it. I don’t think that ordering her to get a part-time job, barring any extenuating medical or family circumstances, is unreasonable, given the methodical theft she admitted to while working for several attorneys. If Mitchell is in a position to accelerate her payments, she should be ordered to do so. After all, Connelly is still paying the price for her crime, including the loss of his clients’ trust and an obligation to make things right with them, whether she returns the funds or not.Do you think it’s reasonable to order Mitchell to get a part-time job to increase her restitution payments?

2 Responses to Attorney Requests Increased Restitution from Former Paralegal

  1. Lynne: My answer to you on Twitter:

    "If defendant is able, without incurring other expenses or hardships (like what to do w/ kids), then yes PT job."

    But, I think I would revise that to drop "other expenses." Obviously, there are expenses with going to any job, like gas, clothes, etc.

    I remember a case from several years ago where a long-time legal secretary got caught taking from the client trust account. Her "defense" was that her lawyer-boss had skipped giving her raises for years (maybe decades), and so she was just giving herself the raises. Or something like that. Anyway, even though the court did not buy that as a legal defense, it did grant her a substantial offset on her restitution. Yeah, really.

  2. Problem: Who other than her own husband would hire the thief? Not me! I'm afraid her former employer will just have to wait. Heaven knows HE wouldn't hire her again–even to work it off!

Contact Info:

Lynne J. DeVenny, N.C. State Bar Certified Paralegal

Owner & Virtual Paralegal, DeVenny Paralegal Services

Email: lynne.devenny[at]gmail.com

Telephone: 336-582-0003

Inquiries are welcome, with free quotes available.

Meet Lynne:

Lynne DeVenny is a North Carolina State Bar Certified Paralegal with over 27 years of experience working on complex litigation cases, including medical malpractice, personal injury, workers’ compensation, and Social Security disability.

Disclosure: I am not a lawyer and cannot provide legal representation or legal advice.

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