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Hurricane woman convicted of embezzlement sentenced to prison

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A Hurricane woman who embezzled nearly $400,000 from the Charleston law firm where she worked is going to prison for two to 20 years.

In an emotional hearing Tuesday, Teri Kay Workman, 44, apologized to the Hale Street firm of Bailey, Bucci and Javins, but a judge said she sounded "shallow."

"It's the truth," Workman said. "I am sorry for what I've done."

Workman used company credit cards and wrote herself checks to fund shopping sprees, vacations, concert tickets and even pizza for her church youth group.

Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom called Workman's crime "unthinkable." When he pronounced her sentence, the defendant's mother collapsed and slid from the bench where she was seated behind Workman.

Grief-stricken, she had to be helped from the courtroom afterwards, sobbing uncontrollably. Workman, clutching a tissue, turned to look at her briefly but revealed no emotion.

At least 40 friends, relatives and members of Workman's church turned out for the sentencing. None spoke, but many wrote letters on her behalf to the judge.

Bloom actually sentenced Workman to six one- to 10-year consecutive sentences for each of the counts to which she pleaded guilty. But he suspended the last four of those and will allow her to serve probation. She could have spent up to 60 years incarcerated.

The judge ordered Workman to work full time when she leaves prison and to begin paying restitution to the law firm.

"She won't even approach what is owed, but she is to work every day," he said.

"I don't care if it is flipping burgers."

 Assistant Prosecutor Fred Giggenbach and attorney Timothy Bailey, one of the victims, painted a detailed picture of an elaborate scheme to steal hundreds of thousands from the business over a seven-year period. She was the firm's business manager.

Bailey said, "I considered her not only an employee, but a friend. She was the second highest-paid staff member at the firm. When her job performance started to slip, we felt so horrible about letting her go."

But it was after she was terminated and a new office manager hired that Workman's crime came to light.

Bailey said when he called Workman to discuss $40,000 in missing company funds, she admitted she had taken it.

"I asked her, 'Is this all I need to look for?' " Bailey said. "And she told me, 'That's it.' "

"But with every credit card statement, there was more and more," he said, his voice breaking. "I pride myself in living a Christian life, but this hurts."

Bailey said the "numbers just kept going up" the more the firm delved into bank statements and credit card accounts. He said Workman shredded many credit card statements and had others sent to her home.

"It was a detailed, complicated system of stealing," he said. "And constant denial. It's just shocking."

"That money would have paid for a lot of health care insurance for our employees," Bailey said. "My lowest-paid employee, a single mother, has less money in her retirement because of this.

"That money does not come out of partners' pockets, but out of everyone's pockets," he said. "I could have put my daughter through college for that money. The amount is absolutely staggering."

He asked for prison and not home confinement so others tempted to embezzle might be deterred.

"If you think you can go on a $400,000 shopping spree and then only sit at home for a year, that's a bad precedent to set," he said.

Giggenbach also asked the judge to put her behind bars.

"This was not a need thing; it was a greed thing," he said. "For seven years she abused this firm. The deceit and fraud is astounding.

"She took five family members on a cruise to Mexico on the company dime," Giggenbach said. "And don't forget, everything she took was tax free."

Contact writer Cheryl Caswell at 304-348-4832.


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