Sachdeva’s attorneys seek leniency — (Milwaukee Business Journal)

SSRI Ed note: Anxious binge shopper, VP Finance, takes Prozac, spending gets worse, she embezzles $34 million, caught, faces 20 years. Bipolar illness blamed.

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Milwaukee Business Journal

by Rich Kirchen

Date: Wednesday, November 17, 2010, 9:48am CST – Last Modified: Wednesday, November 17, 2010, 10:01am CST

Sujata “Sue” Sachdeva deserves a less severe sentence than her prosecutors are seeking because she suffers from bipolar disorder that caused her to go on extravagant shopping sprees and pay for them with funds from her then-employer Koss Corp., her attorneys argue.

Attorneys Michael Hart and Brian Kinstler, in a sentencing memo posted late Tuesday, suggest that U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Adelman consider a reduction of 30 percent or more from the 15 to 20 years sought by prosecutors.

Sachdeva, of Mequon, is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday afternoon in U.S. District Court in downtown Milwaukee. She pleaded guilty in July to six counts of wire fraud for embezzling $34 million from Koss Corp., Milwaukee, where she was vice president of finance at the time of her arrest in December 2009.

Sachdeva has been free on a $50,000 signature bond since her arrest.

Although the federal sentencing guidelines place the range of Sachdeva’s sentence at about 15 years to 20 years, Adelman will make the final decision on the length of her sentence and a restitution plan.

Koss Corp. CEO Michael Koss submitted a letter to Adelman this week agreeing with the U.S. Attorney’s office on the 15- to 20-year sentence.

Sachdeva’s attorneys said her offenses were neither premeditated nor calculated and resulted from her compulsive shopping and spending disorder. Because of that, her embezzlement case is different than others and Adelman should be lenient, they said.

Sachdeva suffered from severe anxiety and sought relief through binge shopping, the memo says. She kept telling herself she would repay the money but was caught in a cycle made even worse in 2009 when she was prescribed Prozac that actually escalated her spending, her attorneys said.

“This was not selfishness; it was hoarding,” the memo says. “Despite what some might say, her buying behavior was driven not by sheer greed, but rather by compulsion.”

Sachdeva has provided Adelman with a mental health evaluation by someone the memo says is one of the world’s leading experts on bipolar disorder and impulse control disorders. The undisclosed expert’s opinion is that Sachdeva suffers a number of related mental illnesses, the memo states. These conditions were not diagnosed until after her arrest, her attorneys said.

“They are not the convenient invention of a creative defense counsel; the diagnoses are the result of careful clinical evaluation by a world-class expert,” the memo says.