PHILADELPHIA – An office manager who admitted stealing $475,000 from her employer has been sentenced to 21 years of house arrest so she can work to repay it.
Lanette Sansoni's unusual sentence came after her ex-boss said he was more interested in restitution than jail time, her lawyer said.
"This was just a creative compromise," defense attorney A. Charles Peruto Jr. said Thursday. "I think it will encourage her to pay it off, so the judge was pretty smart about it."
Peruto, a veteran defense lawyer in the region, guessed the two-decade term may be a record for house arrest in Pennsylvania. State officials could not immediately confirm that.
Sansoni, 40, has repaid about $275,000 after selling her home in Warminster, just north of Philadelphia, and moving in with her mother. She will remain on house arrest until the remaining $200,000 is repaid to Kenneth Slomine, who owned JRS Settlement Services, a title company in Lower Moreland Township.
Montgomery County Judge Joseph A. Smyth on Wednesday set a payment schedule of $750 a month, which works out to about 21 years.
Sansoni can leave home to work but could go to jail if the payments stop. She has a job paying $700 a week, Peruto said, but he wouldn't disclose what it is.
Prosecutors had argued for incarceration for Sansoni, who also served as a title clerk at JRS before it went bust because of her theft.
"This is a case that just cried out for jail time," said Assistant District Attorney Steven Bunn, who called Sansoni's crimes "egregious."
"She's not stealing to make ends meet," Bunn said. "She was buying luxury vacations, designer handbags, designer jewelry, and basically living the high life while this company went under."
Sansoni earned $60,000 a year plus benefits managing Slomine's small family business. About six people lost their jobs when the company closed, including Slomine and his wife and son.
Sansoni began working for the company in 2003 and started skimming from various accounts three years later. She used the proceeds to pay off several credit cards, including nearly $17,000 racked up on her daughter's card and nearly $47,000 on her mother's account, said Slomine's lawyer, Gregg Cotler.
The credit card company raised the first red flags about the possible fraud, said Cotler, who called Sansoni's sentence "unusual."
"He (Slomine) was conflicted by the fact that if she were to serve an extended sentence, that would mean she wasn't working and generating money and wasn't able to pay the money back," Cotler said.
Peruto said he expects Sansoni to pay off the debt early and be released from house arrest.
"I wouldn't be shocked," he said, "if it was paid off in a couple of years."