By Daniel Pepper
A Saugatuck woman has been sentenced to jail, probation and community service for embezzling thousands of dollars from her former employer, Tower Marine in Douglas.
Betty Lynn Landon, 60, was sentenced in Allegan County Circuit Court Monday on one count of attempted embezzlement by agent or trustee over $1,000.
Judge Roberts Kengis called the case “interesting from a legal perspective” before sentencing Landon because he had already made several rulings on it, including upholding the defendant’s bind over from district court.
“I understand the defendant’s version of events is she had authorization to do these things,” Kengis said. “But that doesn’t match up with the facts.
“It’s clear you intended to cover up how you were taking these benefits from your employer.”
Landon pleaded no contest in the case, which Kengis was asked to allow because of potential liability to a civil lawsuit, in exchange for prosecutors replacing the charge of embezzlement by agent or trustee $1,000 to $20,000 with the lesser, attempted version of the charge.
At an earlier hearing, Kengis found Landon guilty based on the transcript of testimony at the preliminary hearing where company officials Matt Peterson, R.J. Peterson and Marlene Dahlman all testified Landon didn’t have authorization to do what she did.
“She didn’t have authorization to issue manual payroll checks to herself,” Kengis said.
Her explanation the checks were for mileage, overtime and in lieu of vacation time was contradicted by the officials at the marina where Landon had worked for years, lately as comptroller.
The victims, said Landon’s attorney Matt Antkoviak, were asking for restitution of $45,066.50. His client believed some of that was justified but not all.
“We’d ask the court to conduct a restitution hearing to determine the amount,” Antkoviak said.
“Hearing today,” said Matt Peterson, “that she’ll contest restitution isn’t surprising as I know her and her lack of taking responsibility for her actions. We’ve been at this for a long time and it’s time for her to admit what she did and put the matter to rest.”
Landon had spent six years at Tower Marine working closely with R.J. Peterson, said Antkoviak, pointing out she had left home at age 16, raised three grown daughters and had no prior criminal record.
He said Landon had lost her home, then lost other jobs she had gotten after being let go from Tower Marine when those employers learned about the charges.
Asking his client not be sent to jail, Antkoviak added she was now working but for a much lower wage than before.
“My client has lost everything,” he said. “I know the victims lost a lot too, not just the money but the betrayal of trust. It’s Betty’s hope to move forward and live her life properly.”
Assistant prosecutor Judith Kasson asked for five years probation and payment of restitution as the sentence.
Kengis sentenced Landon to 30 days in jail, with one day credit and nine of those days to be served as part of the jail’s weekend community service program. He also sentenced her to three years probation and restitution in an amount to be determined.
“It’s disappointing to hear someone enter a plea and then say they aren’t guilty,” Kengis said.