Woman who lived ‘high life’ after stealing reported $750K from employer makes deal to pay back only $50K — and family mortages house to do it
A woman who stole more than a half-million dollars from her employer had to pay back a fraction of what she took from the business, he said, and she won’t spend a day in prison, as long as she doesn’t get in trouble with the law again.
That’s the plea agreement that Lacey K. Dickerson, 33, got in Jones County Circuit Court on Tuesday. The former Williams Transport employee admitted to stealing “in excess of $25,000” from her employer between January 2012 and September 2016, Assistant District Attorney Dennis Bisnette said while describing her crime for the court.
“She paid power bills, for vacations, trips, etc.,” Bisnette said, adding that her husband has chicken houses, so the electricity bills were substantial.
Dickerson was ordered to serve five years probation under the supervision of the Mississippi Department of Corrections and participate in the court’s community service program. She paid back a lump sum of $50,000 on the day of her court appearance, plus she was ordered to pay court costs of $417.50, which she took care of on her day in court.
A family member mortgaged his house in order to pay the $50,000 on her behalf, sources close to the case said. If she violates the terms of her release, including not reporting for community service, she could face up to the maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, Judge Dal Williamson said.
After paying the $50,417.50, if she lives up to the terms of her release agreement, the felony will be expunged from her record, according to the deal that was worked out between her attorney Scott Schwartz of Hattiesburg and Bisnette. She spent one day in the Jones County jail.
“She embezzled over $750,000 from me and my company, forcing me to lay off a lot of good people,” said Scott Williams, owner of the business. “Basically a slap on her hand for stealing close to $1 million and devastating so many lives.”
Williams signed an affidavit saying he agreed with the terms of the plea agreement, but that’s only because it was the only way he was going to get back any of the money that was stolen from him, he said.
“She was living the high life, buying over $12,000 worth of shoes in one year, as well as vacations and other things like that, with my money, all while the rest of us were struggling to keep the doors open,” he said.
Bisnette said that the law “is not well-equipped to deal with embezzlement.”
The main goal is to get money back for the victims, he said, and that can’t be accomplished if the defendant is in prison.
“It’s very hard to get money out of people who have no money,” Bisnette said. “If she got 20 years (in prison), she’d be out in two, with no job, no prospects of a job and she’d never have to pay a dime. Time doesn’t get you paid.”
Bisnette said that Dickerson’s attorney negotiated with Williams, through the DA’s office, to come up with the $50,000 lump-sum payout.
“(Williams) considered it over a period of months, a couple of counter offers were made … and he eventually agreed to it,” Bisnette said.
Williams’ business “grew big fast,” Bisnette said, and that’s likely why Dickerson was able to make so many unsupervised transactions. He said he could not substantiate the $750,000 figure that Williams claimed because he only had to prove that she took $25,000 to get the maximum sentence of 20 years for embezzlement. She’ll only face that prison time if she messes up again over the next five years, Bisnette said.
Bisnette offered some advice that he got from a law professor many years ago about how employers can cut down on theft by employees: “Sign your own checks, pick up your mail and open your own mail … and they won’t get to you in a large way.”
He also suggested that employers get email or text-message alerts for transactions.
Forensic investigator Louise Stewart, who used to work for the state auditor’s office, helped with the case for Williams and the DA’s office.
“I was disappointed again,” she said of the sentence Dickerson received. “I’m glad I’m retired and will decline the embezzlement case the ADA referred me to (on Tuesday).”