Florence woman pleads guilty to embezzling

2012-04-05T12:39:00Z 2012-07-02T16:19:37Z Florence woman pleads guilty to embezzlingBy LAURA LUNDQUIST Ravalli Republic The Billings Gazette
April 05, 2012 12:39 pm  • 

HAMILTON -- A Florence embezzler has pleaded guilty to crimes for which she must repay more than $30,000.

On Wednesday, Neldia Marie Puccinelli, 59, who also uses the last names of Buck and Staves, pleaded guilty in Ravalli County District Court to one felony count of theft by embezzlement in return for having two identical counts dropped.

She could receive a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail and a $50,000 fine.

Puccinelli worked for ProMark Inc. as a bookkeeper and had access to the company accounts. In December 2008, the company's owner, Merritt Rogers, began noticing bookkeeping discrepancies, according to court records.

When he finally confronted Puccinelli in March 2009, Rogers said, Puccinelli admitted to stealing from ProMark and also admitted that she had done similar things at her father's company years before.

An investigation and audit of the accounts revealed that Puccinelli had paid herself more than $18,000 extra over the course of almost two years.

The audit further indicated that Puccinelli appeared to have written at least 15 unauthorized checks worth more than $6,400 either to herself or to vendors for her own purchases.

Finally, Puccinelli allegedly used the company bank card to make personal purchases from Walmart, Home Depot and Costco and to pay bills totaling more than $5,600. The expenditures were not authorized, and the associated late charges came to almost $8,000.

Puccinelli was charged in July 2011 after the results of the investigation and audit were available.

Ravalli County prosecutor Bill Fulbright said restitution would not be handled through the court because ProMark had filed a civil case against Puccinelli to reclaim the money. Public defender Nicolas Miller said Puccinelli would owe $30,000 plus some personal property as a result of the settlement, and one of the conditions of the plea agreement was that she fulfill the settlement payments.

Fulbright said Puccinelli would have a Department of Corrections commitment, but the length of the commitment was open and would be set after sentencing arguments on June 6. He said he would recommend a suspended sentence in return for local jail time, but the amount of time was also left open.


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