Putnam woman gets 6 years for embezzling
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Putnam County woman who admitted last month to stealing $380,000 from the Charleston law firm where she worked and using the money to pay for vacations, shopping sprees and concert tickets will spend at least six years in prison.
On Tuesday, Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom sentenced Terri Kay Workman, 44, of Eleanor, on six counts of embezzlement, inciting an outcry from the dozens of family, friends and members of Workman's church congregation that attended the hearing.
One woman, believed to be Workman's mother, collapsed to the floor when the judge issued his decision and had to be helped into the hallway and out of the courthouse.
Members of the family were too preoccupied to comment for this story. Workman's lawyer, M. Rosalee Juba-Plumley, did not immediately return a phone call placed Tuesday afternoon.
Workman, a former office manager for Bucci Bailey and Javins, admitted that she wrote checks to herself almost every month for seven years for amounts ranging from $800 to $1,200 and racked up more than $60,000 in debt on the firm's credit cards, according to Kanawha County assistant prosecutor Fred Giggenbach. On one occasion, Workman went on a family cruise to Mexico on the firm's dime, Giggenbach said.
"This was not a need thing, this was a greed thing," he said.
Workman made $40,000 a year as office manager. Firm partner Tim Bailey said Workman was the second-highest-paid staffer.
"There was never any information given to us that there were any problems financially -- that she couldn't make it or that she was in dire need," Bailey said Tuesday. "It wasn't like I had someone who was an entry-level staffer that because of change in personal circumstances was finding it difficult to make it."
Workman was fired after a dip in job performance, Bailey said. After she left the firm, the new office manager noticed that huge chunks of cash were missing and that credit card statements were being mailed to her house.
The first statement indicated that Workman spent $40,000 on furniture and other items, Bailey said. When the other statements came in, the full spectrum of the embezzlement became apparent, he said.
"There are things on there -- trips, shopping trips, there were sunglasses, there were purses," he said. "She was charging the pizza for the church youth group on my credit card -- $1,875 in one year to Papa John's.
"I mean, I pride myself on trying to live a Christian life," he said, with tears in his eyes. "That hurt."
Bailey said that Workman used the firm's credit card to buy tickets for gospel music concerts for several co-workers. When they paid her back for the tickets, she pocketed the money.
He said that most of the money Workman skimmed was profit off the top of the company's books that otherwise would have been used in a profit-sharing 401(k) program. He also said the money could have been used to pay for "an awful lot" of the firm's rising health insurance costs or for the hiring of a new lawyer or paralegal.
"That money doesn't just come out of just a bunch of big partners in a law firm," he said. "It came out of everyone's pocket. The amount of money here is absolutely staggering."
Near the beginning of Tuesday's hearing, Workman apologized for the theft and asked the judge for a lenient sentence.
"It was very selfish what I did," she said. "I knew it was wrong when I was doing it, but I justified in my head that it was OK."
Workman will be eligible for parole in two years, but will be required to spend 20 years on probation after her release.
Reach Zac Taylor at Zachary.Taylor@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.