Courtland woman sentenced for stealing from retirement community
Published 4:02 pm Wednesday, February 10, 2016
A former employee of The Village at Woods Edge was sentenced on Tuesday to two years and four months in prison and ordered to pay restitution for stealing $176,780.04 from the retirement community.
Marian Lewis, 49, of Courtland, pleaded guilty in November to five counts of mail fraud. The plea came during a jury trail at which her husband, a deputy with the Southampton County Sheriff’s Office, was acquitted on all related charges.
Court documents show that Lewis worked as the retirement community’s bookkeeper for two decades, and that she was stealing money from at least Nov. 27, 2009, through Feb. 26, 2014. When authorities at The Village became suspicious of wrongdoing, the matter was turned over to investigators.
“Lewis routinely used the retirement community’s credit cards to purchase items for her own personal use, such as a television, computer, digital cameras and tools,” said Deanna Warren, public information officer for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Virginia.
Lewis also stole nearly all of the cash brought in by The Village’s restaurant — The Back Porch and Grille — and hair salon.
“She also used the credit cards, along with over $130,000 in cash that she stole from the retirement community, to make home improvements, such as redoing her kitchen and building a deck around a pool at her residence in Courtland,” Warren said.
During the aforementioned four-year period, court documents show that Lewis deposited only $10.34 into The Village’s bank account.
Rhonda Stewart, former executive director at The Village at Woods Edge, testified during the trail and was in the courtroom when Lewis was sentenced.
“It was done in a lot of different ways — credit cards, cash and with different accounting software,” she said. “It was a very sophisticated scheme used to cover the many avenues.”
Drew Page, attorney for Marian Lewis, told The Tidewater News on Wednesday that his client will be incarcerated somewhere on the East Coast to be close to her family.
“We argued that she tried to accept responsibility during the entire case,” Page said, adding that the federal government was pursuing her husband, Michael, on a conspiracy charge. “Once that was dismissed, she owned up to her actions and accepted the plea agreement.”
The attorney pointed out that prosecutors tried to make it seem as if Lewis was living extravagantly with the fraudulent money.
“She was trying to maintain the couple’s lifestyle since her husband had lost his job,” Page said. “It wasn’t a luxury.”
Stewart respectfully disagreed with Page’s assessment, and said, “Her husband lost his job when the [International Paper] mill closed [in 2009], but the thefts were happening before that. I found theft in 2008,” she said. “The judge stated during the sentencing that the items were not of necessity. There were items purchased to renovate her home, pool supplies and to go on vacations to Nags Head [North Carolina]. It was a long list of things.”
Page acknowledged the court found a few differences, but ultimately said that his client received a fair and just sentence.
“My client was satisfied, and that she owed a debt to society,” he said. “She also apologized to The Village, her family and all the people she hurt.”
Stewart, who called Lewis a long-time and trusted employee, said the community was shocked and devastated by the whole ordeal.
“It was really impactful to the entire organization,” she said. “Not financially straining or a burden, but you begin to lose trust in people. It was not something that anyone anticipated. She had been there for 24 years. The Village is just ultimately thankful that it’s behind us. Just wished it never had happened. We fell victim to someone good at covering up theft.
“It’s a painful lesson to learn, and we’re stronger because of it.”
Detective Camden Cobb of the Southampton County Sheriff’s Office told The Tidewater News that Michael Lewis was hired by the department on Oct. 1, 2010, and terminated on June 3, 2015.