A former Crown Candy employee pleaded guilty Monday to embezzling nearly $300,000 by issuing paychecks to herself in the names of fictitious employees and former workers.
Katrina Lainette McCutchen, 44, pleaded guilty to 54 counts of theft during a hearing in Bibb County Superior Court.
A judge sentenced her to 45 years, seven of them in prison. She also must pay $327,000 in restitution.
McCutchen cried as she was handcuffed and ushered from the courtroom, telling her family, “I’m so sorry.”
Charges still are pending against 40-year-old Robert Lorenzo Butler, McCutchen’s husband, who also is charged in the case. Prosecutor Myra Tisdale said some of the stolen money was paid to Butler, who has never worked at Crown Candy.
Tisdale said Crown Candy, a Macon family business that makes and distributes candy sold nationwide, employed McCutchen from before 2010 until her termination when the theft was discovered in 2013. She’d handled the company’s payroll, finances and personnel responsibilities.
A 2015 forensic audit showed that $298,187 was illegally taken over weekly pay periods in 2012. Money was direct deposited into accounts bearing McCutchen’s name, her children’s names and her then-boyfriend’s name, Tisdale said.
“The amount of loss is probably much greater than that,” she said, explaining that the company’s records from 2012 were the only ones audited. The audit itself cost nearly $30,000.
Tisdale said the losses are estimated to have begun in 2010 and gone on into 2013, totaling more than $800,000.
Additionally, due to McCutchen’s allegedly not filing W-2s with the Internal Revenue Service, Crown Candy owes more than $200,000 as a penalty, she said. Paul Christian, McCutchen’s lawyer, said she disputes not filing the W-2s.
Company Vice President Gary Black asked that McCutchen be sentenced to the maximum penalty allowed, saying that Crown Candy trusted McCutchen and she violated that trust.
“I don’t trust anybody anymore,” he said.
Butler’s lawyer, Kristen Quinton, spoke on her client’s behalf, pleading for mercy for McCutchen.
She described McCutchen as her family’s “rock” and “stronghold.”
Butler, who is facing prison time for violating his probation, fears what will happen to the couple’s children if McCutchen goes to prison, Quinton said.
Christian said McCutchen’s father died when she was 14, leaving her on her own.
She was married multiple times to men who abused her and had trouble with substance abuse, Christian said.
“It’s against this backdrop that she committed these crimes,” he said, adding that McCutchen hadn’t previously had trouble with the law.
Speaking to the judge before she was sentenced, McCutchen wept as she said, “I didn’t trust God and I took things into my own hands.”
She apologized and said she wouldn’t break the law again.
“It’s not worth it,” McCutchen said.