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Lansing man pleads guilty to embezzlement, ordered to pay $165k

A gambling addiction appears to have been behind an Ingham County man's embezzlement of thousands of dollars from a Lansing area medical practice. The man, who originally faced decades in prison, was sentenced to probation on Sep. 11, several weeks after he pleaded guilty to reduced charges. The court also ordered him to repay nearly $165,000 to the clinic and seek treatment for his gambling addiction.

The defendant formerly worked for the medical office as its office manager until February 2012. During that time, he had access to the practice's payroll and benefits accounts. A month after his employment at the clinic ended, prosecutors charged him with embezzlement of $100,000 or more. That is a felony in Michigan, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Facing a potentially heavy prison term, the defendant and his defense attorney reached a plea agreement with the prosecution. In exchange for a guilty plea, prosecutors reduced the charge against him to embezzlement of between $1,000 and $20,000 as a third-time offender.

Prosecutors consulted with the owners of the clinic, who approved the deal. The assistant county prosecutor assigned to the case noted that the doctors were forgiving. Perhaps they understood that their former employee was not fully in control of his actions.

The man will avoid incarceration, as long as he abides by the terms of his probation, which will last for five years. Among his conditions is to avoid gambling and get treatment for his addiction. He must also pay $164,889.06 in restitution to the doctor's office.

Depending on the individual case, a plea deal may be the best course of action. A reduced sentence may be a better bet than going to trial and risking a lengthy sentence. However, there can be serious consequences to a guilty plea, such as having a criminal conviction on your record.

Source: Lansing State Journal, "Lansing man ordered to pay $164K in embezzlement case," Ryan S. Clark, Sep. 11, 2013

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