With only 42 days left to serve in jail for embezzlement, a Beckley attorney’s former office manager made a tearful plea Thursday to end her sentence sooner.

Lesa Faye Meade asked Raleigh County Circuit Judge H.L. Kirkpatrick to reconsider the year-long jail sentence she received after pleading guilty last spring to embezzling more than $168,292 from Beckley attorney Eugene Pecora from 1996 to 2002. She argued she needed to be released to care for her parents, who are in poor health but would prefer to not hire someone from outside the family to care for them, even though they could afford to do so.

Kirkpatrick denied her request, citing an argument made by assistant prosecutor Kristen Keller that he termed “persuasive.”

“The court did not put the defendant in this situation. The state did not put the defendant in this situation. ... She put herself in this situation,” Keller said.

Kirkpatrick said though the situation was “heart-breaking to the court,” he could not make allowances for sick relatives.

“Many times relatives suffer worse than the defendant when the defendant is incarcerated,” he said.

Kirkpatrick also noted an increase in similar white-collar crimes, saying there has been “a rash of these types of cases.”

“I can’t explain where there has been such a rise in this type of offense,” he said.

Last month, Kirkpatrick sent a former Wooton Law Firm employee to prison for embezzling more than $100,000. Bonnie Sue Crouch was the third former Beckley law firm employee to be convicted of embezzlement in the last five years.

Beckley attorney Kyle Lusk has also been a victim of embezzlement. In 2000, his former employee, Crystal Tucker, received a sentence of probation, which court documents indicate she eventually violated. The judge ordered her to pay $30,952.49 restitution and spend a year in jail.

The crime also appears to be popular locally outside law offices.

In 2003, Shelley Proffitt Johnson of Covington, Va., received five years’ probation from a Greenbrier County judge for embezzling an estimated $43,840 from the Fairlea Kmart.

Last year, a Pineville woman, Alicia D. Tabor, pleaded guilty in federal court to embezzling more than $96,000 from a bank.

In May of this year, a 67-year-old Greenbrier County woman, Toni Williams, was sentenced to five years’ probation and a year of home confinement for embezzling $20,711.48 from the State Farm Insurance agency where she worked as an office manager.

In June, an assistant manager at Goody’s in Beckley, Karen Elizabeth Pritchard, confessed to embezzling funds from her store and using a false abduction story as a cover.

And in September, a federal judge sentenced two Wyoming County women, Debra Susan Sluss and Kathy Lynne Belcher, for embezzling some $105,250 from the Pineville branch of People’s Bank of Mullens. The women received prison time in addition to having to pay back the bank. Sluss received 15 months in prison and Belcher received one year.

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