Secretary gets up to 14 years for embezzlement — (The Daily Telegram)

Original article no longer available

The Daily Telegram

Thursday, August 9, 2007 9:11 AM EDT

By Dennis Pelham, Daily Telegram Staff Writer

Harriet Northrup is accused of stealing money from Richard Kralick’s law firm and from a mentally impaired client over a period of two years.

ADRIAN ­ A former secretary for an Adrian law firm was slapped Wednesday with maximum prison terms of up to 14 years. Harriet Laura Northrup was also ordered to repay $161,353 she is accused of embezzling from the firm and from a mentally impaired client.

“The defendant was in a position of trust working in a law office handling funds that belonged to other people, handling funds of someone who was mentally incapacitated,” said Lenawee County Circuit Judge Timothy P. Pickard. State sentencing guidelines allowing as little as a five-month jail sentence are woefully inadequate in a case involving so much money taken in repeated thefts over a period of two years, Pickard said.

He exceeded the guidelines in ordering Northrup, 59, to serve at least nine years and four months in prison to a maximum of 14 years for six counts of forgery and of uttering and publishing she pleaded guilty to on June 26.

Adrian attorney Richard Kralick scoffed at Northrup’s apology in court and plea for a chance to get out of jail and repay the victims.

“Your honor, I heard the statement. I don’t believe a word of it,” Kralick said. Money to replace what was stolen is coming out of his personal retirement funds, he said.

“Rather than see her go to prison or jail, I would rather see her burn in hell,” Kralick told the court.

He said Northrup never mentioned anything to him about financial problems in paying for surgeries for her children or having trouble with house payments. Public defender Robert Jameson told the court that is how Northrup used most of the embezzled money.

“It is my personal opinion that the large bulk of the money is still available and is hidden,” Kralick said. “I think she’s trying to drag this out and somehow go back and get this money.

“I think the guidelines are a joke,” Kralick added. “She has done her best to destroy two families,” he said, and the guidelines did not even require a prison term.

“Hot dog. I’ll spend five months in jail for $100,000,” he said.

Northrup was accused of taking nearly $120,000 from Kralick’s law firm by writing and cashing forged checks in 2005 and 2006. Another $44,000 was taken from the estate of an elderly woman whom Northrup served as conservator.

Janet Williams told the court her mother, Beverly Bailey, was left penniless by Northrup. When she was appointed conservator, Northrup was trusted by the family, by Kralick and by the courts, said Williams.

“She deceived us all,” Williams said. She even took $29,000 from college trust accounts for Bailey’s grandchildren, Williams said.

“We feel Harriet deserves the maximum punishment, not a few months in jail,” Williams said.

In a written statement read by Jameson, Northrup asked not to be sentenced to prison.

“What useful purpose would be served?” she asked. “Please allow me a second chance as you have provided for others.”

Northrup’s statement also said the embezzlements were not worth the emotional suffering they caused.

“Nothing is worth the pain I have caused my family and friends and Kralicks and the Baileys,” she said. “Remorseful is not even close to what I feel.”

In arguing for leniency, Jameson told the court that Northrup was diagnosed with depression and placed on medication at about the time the embezzlements began. He said she told him about strange urges to gamble and mentioned family health problems and housing expenses in explaining where the stolen money went.

“She intends to pay the restitution in this matter,” Jameson said.

Pickard said the court has not seen a penny of the money returned since Northrup was arrested in Florida and returned to Michigan in April.

“With the amount taken it’s hard to believe some of the money isn’t there,” Pickard said.

Also, the number of separate crimes over the two-year period, the abuse of authority and victimization of a vulnerable person that are involved in the case all help justify exceeding sentence guidelines, Pickard said.

He also gave her maximum sentences of 80 months to 10 years in prison for an embezzlement charge and 40 months to five years for a false pretenses charge.

Northrup’s sentencing was adjourned last week after she filed a motion to withdraw her guilty pleas, claiming she did not understand what she was doing at the time. She dropped the request Wednesday without explanation.