BROOKSVILLE — Angel Edmonds could have served 15 years in prison for spending the money a 91-year-old woman saved up over the course of her life. But on Friday, Judge Daniel Merritt Sr. sentenced the 37-year-old woman to two years of house arrest, requiring the mother of three to repay Florence Butler at least $900 a month until the $60,000 she stole in 2011 was repaid.
Dale Leftridge, Butler’s stepdaughter and guardian, said her parents trusted Edmonds, who had worked as their caretaker since 2008, driving them to doctor appointments and running other errands.
“I never envisioned Angel doing such a thing,” said Leftridge, adding Edmonds was “treated as part of the family.”
Leftridge said if the money is not repaid, her stepmother might be forced to move from her apartment due to the financial burden. Edmonds was able to access the account after being appointed Butler’s power of attorney.
Edmonds spent the $60,000 on items such as a SUV, a dog costing more than $1,000, concert tickets, satellite radio, toys and music purchases.
Edmond’s mother, Marie Pitado, told Merritt she has supported her daughter since the day she was born, and will continue to do everything she can to support her if he placed her on probation.
Edmond’s teenage daughter cried as she spoke about how her mother’s mistakes had affected the whole family and, when asked by the judge, said she would help take care of her younger siblings, aged 10 and 7, when her mom was at work.
In a plea to the court, Edmonds said she felt “dreadful” when she thinks about the $60,000 she stole from Butler, adding she misses the woman “tremendously” and feels like she is a grandmother to her.
Edmonds said after 14 months of “diligently” trying to find employment, she finally was offered a job in November for a local company that oversees airport security.
“If I go to jail, I lose everything,” said Edmonds.
Prosecutor Michael Conageski from the State Attorney’s Office said it took Edmonds three months to spend the Butler’s life savings on “things she didn’t need.” Conageski said there was no reason to sentence Edmonds to less than five years in prison for exploiting Butler for her age, and taking her money set aside for a better life in retirement.
Edmond’s lawyer, Jeff Quisenberry, said the case was “troubling,” but not a “sophisticated case,” such as sending money overseas.
Quisenberry said Edmonds’ charges were “strictly theft, not neglect.” Her lawyer said she ought to only focus on paying the money back, and “earn her way back into society” while under house arrest.
Before sentencing, Merritt said he had “very little sympathy” for Edmonds, pointing out she had not offered an excuse for her actions. Merritt said if Edmonds did not have small children, and did not have an elderly lady who needs to be repaid, she would be “sitting in jail,” and advised the woman she check in with her parole officer that afternoon.
“If you come back there is no other option than you going to prison,” Merritt said.
Butler’s family will receive the SUV, as well.
Woman who stole $60,000 from client gets probation
Wendy Joan Biddlecombe
December 29, 2012
Hernando Today/The Tampa Tribune