2018-01-31 / News

Office manager pleads guilty, repays embezzled money

By Ben Orcutt

A longtime office manager for a Chesterfield auto dealership is serving a six-month jail sentence after pleading guilty to embezzling more than $200,000 from her former employer.Martha Sheehan RunyonMartha Sheehan Runyon

Martha Sheehan Runyon, 64, of the 4000 block of Falling Creek Circle, pleaded guilty last June to five counts of embezzlement from Hyman Brothers Nissan, Subaru, Kia on Midlothian Turnpike.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert J. Fierro Jr., who prosecuted the case against Runyon, said during last week’s sentencing that she worked for the auto dealership for 27 years, during which time the company changed ownership.

Fierro said evidence in the case indicated that Runyon embezzled company funds from July 2012 until November 2016 and that the crime was discovered as the result of an audit.

Runyon told authorities that the primary reason she stole the money was to help support her husband’s auto repair business, All U Need Automotive, Fierro said.  

During last week’s proceeding, Chesterfield defense attorney Thomas L. Gordon told Circuit Court Judge David E. Johnson that in order to make full restitution, Runyon and her husband sold the business.

“All that money has been repaid,” Fierro said, adding that $204,601.69 was divided among different parties.

Court records indicate that Runyon does not have a criminal record and that she graduated from high school.

In arguing punishment, Gordon told the court that embezzlement is one of the most difficult crimes in determining an appropriate punishment.

Voluntary state sentencing guidelines recommended an active period of incarceration for Runyon from one year and 11 months to four years and 10 months.

“It’s the sentencing guidelines that I argue,” Gordon said.

Gordon said the sentencing guidelines do not factor in restitution. Coupled with Runyon’s lack of a criminal record, Gordon argued for a six-month jail sentence.

Fierro agreed that all cases involve a unique set of facts.

“I think she deserves significant credit for making full restitution,” Fierro said. “In this context these are intentional acts. She did what she did. She betrayed the trust that was placed in her.”

Fierro agreed with Gordon that it was appropriate to consider a downward departure from sentencing guidelines recommendations, but added that it was also appropriate to consider imposing a sentence at the low end of the guidelines.

After taking time to consider all of the evidence, Judge Johnson said the recommended sentencing guidelines in this case were inappropriate.

While calling embezzlement a “pretty vile” crime that involves a betrayal of trust, Johnson added that each case has to be viewed based on its own set of facts.

“Every case is unique,” the judge said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen an amount [of restitution] that high ever paid.” 

Johnson sentenced Runyon to 10 years in prison on each of the five counts of embezzlement, with all of the time suspended except for an additional six-month jail sentence.

Runyon will be place on supervised probation upon release, Johnson said.

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