CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A 74-year-old grandmother who stole nearly $60,000 from two non-profit organizations, including a volunteer fire department, was placed on probation and ordered to undergo counseling.
Ethel Andrews of Dunbar pleaded guilty to two counts of embezzlement involving the Institute VFD and the Kanawha Valley Alumni Chapter of West Virginia State University. She faced a possible two to 20 years in prison.
Andrews testified at her plea hearing that she gave those funds to mail and telephone scammers who promised a possible $48 million if she sent fees upfront. She kept paying more and more fees, but no funds ever came to her.
At a hearing before Kanawha Circuit Judge Carrie Webster Thursday, Andrews vowed to repay those organizations. But when she hinted that she hoped to receive money from still another company promising to pay her, the judge said the woman remained "delusional" and stood a risk of "coming full circle" to repay her debts.
"I'm working hard to acquire some money to repay them," Andrews said. "I have the paperwork, and if the money comes through ..."
The judge interrupted her, then asked her court-appointed attorney, John Sullivan, if Andrews could still be involved with similar scams.
"That she could continue to fall prey -- that is a very valid concern," Sullivan said.
Sullivan said Andrews remains hopeful that she will be getting money, as promised.
Andrews said those companies - Global International and Worldwide Sweepstakes - still call her. But she has stopped using her cell phone in an effort to ignore them.
"What do we need to do so this does not take what else you have left?" Webster asked her.
Andrews laughed and said, "There's nothing left."
She told the judge that she allowed the scams access to her bank account and state credit union account and that she sent them money by Western Union. Each time they harassed her for more she complied, believing they would send her millions of dollars.
When she spent through her own savings -- nearly $200,000 -- and her home was foreclosed, she wrote herself checks from the two organizations to get more. Andrews, retired as a schoolteacher and from the state Insurance Commission, was treasurer of those non-profits at the time.
Webster said, "The gravity of your offense is significant. You stole money from non-profit groups where you were in a position of trust for years. It is deplorable what you did.
"But that element of delusion is there and the court can't ignore it," the judge told her.
She ordered her to undergo mental health counseling to attempt to break Andrews' link with money scams.
Webster told Andrews it would be a violation of her probation if she has any contact with those companies that cheated her, or any like them. She ordered her to get rid of her cell phone and get a new number.
In addition, she sentenced Andrews to 80 hours of community service, but nothing that involves handling finances for any organization.
She was also ordered to begin to make restitution by paying a minimum of $200 a month, out of her current funds only, and pay her monthly supervision costs.
"I'm left with a 74-year-old woman who has done wrong," Webster said. "I'm not condoning your act. You knew better. You let this consume you in a way that has put a blemish on an otherwise distinguished life."Contact writer Cheryl Caswell at cher...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4832.