Two former employees of HealthNet, including the accounting director, will spend time behind bars for stealing more than $57,000 from the company.
Accountant Meredith Ann Collier, 41, of Scott Depot, will be incarcerated for one to three years in state prison after pleading guilty to felony embezzlement. Tina Vance, 41, of Scott Depot, was sentenced to six months and one day at South Central Regional Jail for conspiracy.
Their husbands, Mark Vance and John Collier, were also charged in the scheme involving the air services provider from April to December 2011 and were sentenced to probation.
Collier wrote checks from HealthNet's account to herself, her husband, his construction company, her son and to the Vances. She said she first took the money to help with her bills and later obtained money for Tina Vance, who was in financial trouble.
Vance worked for HealthNet as a data entry clerk.
Kanawha Circuit Judge Carrie Webster disregarded prosecutors' recommendation that all four be given probation. She agreed instead with HealthNet President Clinton Burley that the crime demanded a strong punishment.
Burley said the embezzled funds hurt the nonprofit company's ability to provide transportation services to hospitals for those who needed it.
He called all four thieves but aimed his harshest words at Meredith Collier, who had handled HealthNet's finances for little more than a year before he discovered the missing money.
"You have disrespected yourself, your profession, your community and your children," Burley said. "It is inexcusable and today will be the day you are punished."
Webster devoted nearly three and a half hours to the sentencing hearing, probing the defendants for details of the embezzlement and attempting to understand their roles. She said she was frustrated with the different versions of their stories.
She grilled the four, asking repeatedly about how many checks they cashed and what they did with the money.
The two women blamed each other and disputed the amount of money they kept for themselves.
Vance said she believed the checks were bonuses for doing her job ahead of deadlines. But Collier said that once Vance learned of the first unauthorized check, she demanded to benefit from the fraud.
Webster asked Tina Vance, "Some of these checks were for $5,000 and $7,000 - that's a lot of key entries. What did you do with it?"
Vance's responses were unclear and she seemed confused. Later, Webster asked her court-appointed attorney if she was heavily medicated. He said that she was and that she suffered from some neurological disability.