MANATEE -- Manatee County Judge Thomas Krug sentenced the former manager of a Longboat Key condo association convicted of stealing more than $200,000 of the association's funds to three years of prison and 10 years of probation and ordered her to pay restitution Friday.
Judy Paul, 49, was convicted of felony counts of grand theft in excess of $100,000 and scheming to defraud more than $50,000.
"I feel that the most important function of sentencing that the statue directs this court to find is punishment," Krug said. "Incarceration will serve for that function to make it clear that this type of behavior is not accepted and if it is committed, there is a punishment associated beyond paying what is taken."
Krug said he felt Paul displayed no remorse and that the evidence in the trial revealed deviant behavior that went on for a long time. During sentencing he recalled testimony from the trial that revealed Paul had purchased herself a Harley Davidson with association money and then, when confronted with the checked bearing the initials "H.D.," she "miraculously came up with a company with the same initials."
Paul began working as general manager of the Sand Cay Condo Association in June 2006. Her daily re
sponsibilities included banking, accounting, personnel issues and rental management.
The 60 units that comprise the beach resort, Sand Cay, 4725 Gulf of Mexico Dr., are individually owned but are also available as vacation rentals on a weekly or monthly basis.
The fraud was discovered when a routine 2009 audit uncovered more than 50 checks that were issued by Paul and either cashed or deposited into her own accounts.
Three Sand Cay condo owners took the stand at the sentencing and detailed the financial burdens that Paul's actions had caused and the toll it had put on their lives.
"Recently through a letter from jail she has called on our friendship to recommend probation rather than prison," condo owner Sue Dammann. "However, not in any of the many times she stole from us did her friendship with us cause her to not steal from us."
Dammann said Paul explained that she felt she deserved the money she took because of her increased duties, an agreement with an individual board member that she would get money from an insurance settlement, and because she had to front association money to pay bills, oftentimes because it was broke.
"She has no regret and remorse for what she did, just more excuses, and she has no way of paying us back," Dammann said. "When your kids do wrong you punish them, you don't stop loving them but they receive punishment. I don't believe she should go unpunished."
Dammann and her fellow condo owners asked the court to sentence Paul to time in prison.
Throughout the investigation and the trial, Paul has insisted she was innocent. Amidst growing sobs and frustration, Paul addressed the courtroom with a pre-written statement.
"I loved my job at Sand Cay, I loved every one of you," Paul said. "I worked hard for you and I trusted you too and I believed what I was told, that I would be compensated, that I could trust you. There is so much more to this story."
Paul pleaded to Krug to allow her to receive time served and probation so that she could begin to repay any money the court decided, although she did not take responsibility.
"I regret that my actions helped tarnish Sand Cay," Paul said. "Sand Cay is and was the finest accomplishment of my career, because my heart is still with that place."
Since uncovering the theft, the condo association has tightened up on personnel and management. In the end, the loss was passed on to Sand Cay owners through assessments.
Paul's case marks the first brought to trial by the state attorney's office's new white collar crime division.
Following the sentencing hearing, the defense motioned to Krug to set a supersedeas bond that would allow Paul to be released once a appeal is filed.
Krug ruled it was an appropriate request and set the supersedeas bond at $100,000. Paul remains in custody at the Manatee County jail until an appeal is filed.
Jessica De Leon, law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.