Crime

Former Galati Yacht Sales employee admits to stealing more than $67,000 and agrees to repay it

Heather O’Leary looks towards Judge Gilbert Smith in court to plead guilty to scheming to defraud for stealing more than $67,000 from Galati Yacht Sales. She was sentenced to 5 years probation and must pay restitution.
Heather O’Leary looks towards Judge Gilbert Smith in court to plead guilty to scheming to defraud for stealing more than $67,000 from Galati Yacht Sales. She was sentenced to 5 years probation and must pay restitution. ttompkins@bradenton.com

A month after a former employee at Galati Yacht Sales was arrested, she has admitted to stealing more than $67,000 and agreed to repay all the money she took as part of a plea deal.

Heather Jo O’Leary, 40, resigned from her position with Galati last July after more than four years when she was questioned about checks not being applied to accounts. When Fran Galati, human resources director, ran an audit she discovered there was $67,927.37 unaccounted for.

O’Leary was arrested last month but in an unusually quick change of plea, she pleaded guilty Wednesday afternoon to one felony count of scheme to defraud and was sentenced to five years probation. As part of a plea agreement worked out between her defense attorney, Leland Taylor, and the state attorney’s office, O’Leary agreed to repay the full amount and will serve 100 hours of community service.

“Our biggest concern was that she didn’t do this to anyone else in our community,” Fran Galati said outside the courthouse following the hearing.

The family business, which will celebrate its 50-year anniversary in 2020, also didn’t want O’Leary to ruin the respect and reputation they have developed with the community, and added, “It’s nice to see justice served.”

Taylor never even received any of the evidence listed as discovery in the case before O’Leary agreed to take a plea, according to Assistant State Attorney Melissa Gould.

“She wanted to take responsibility for it,” Gould said.

But Galati disagreed, since it may not have been the first time O’Leary had done this.

Present in court on Wednesday to offer Galati support and witness the hearing was Nancy Arnold, former president of the Wildwood Condo Association board. Arnold said that O’Leary, embezzled money from the association during her employment from 2012 to 2013.

“We caught her right away, within a couple of months. She was giving herself pay raises,” Arnold said.

But she regretted that they never reported the allegations to law enforcement. Gould said those allegations had not been part of the state’s case.

That O’Leary took responsibility soon after her arrest was taken into account in the plea agreement she was offered. Her conviction will be withheld as part of that agreement.

As part of O’Leary’s probation, however, she will not be permitted to work in any bookkeeping or accounting job without first disclosing her criminal history to that potential employer and then seeking permission from her probation officer.

As part of her scheme to defraud, O’Leary would prepare deposit slips at Galati but they were altered before deposits were made at the bank. Checks then would not be applied to customer accounts accurately in order to balance out the cash shortage. There was also money discovered missing from register payouts.

Although detectives were never able to trace the cash, O’Leary was the only employee who handled deposits and register payouts at Galati. As part of their investigation, detectives also had Galati run audits for the days in which O’Leary had taken paid time off, and found that no money was missing on those days.

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