Woman guilty of embezzling from employer
A Spotsylvania County woman is in jail after being convicted of stealing at least $231,000 from her employer over a 12-year period.
Lisa Heflin Stretch, 42, stole the money between 2002 and last year from Orthopedic, Sport and Physical Therapy Associates in Chatham Square in southern Stafford County. She pleaded guilty to 12 counts of embezzlement last week in Stafford Circuit Court.
Prosecutor Andrea Stewart said the exact amount of the theft has not been agreed on. She said Stretch admits to $231,535, while investigators believe that as much as $280,632 was taken.
Stretch was placed in the Rappahannock Regional Jail following her convictions. She will be sentenced on Sept. 18 by Judge Charles Sharp.
According to the evidence presented by Stewart, Stretch began working for OSPTA in 1997 and began stealing from the company in early 2002. She started as an administrative assistant before moving up to office manager, a position that gave her increased access to company credit cards and checkbooks.
Stewart said that in March of last year, Stretch was out of the office for a brief period. During that time, another employee went into Stretch’s office looking for something and stumbled upon a W–2 for Stretch’s son, who was not working for the company.
This raised suspicions and an accountant was hired to review the records. Discrepancies were found and the Sheriff’s Office was contacted.
Stewart said the probe showed that Stretch paid her son $26,000 for a three-month summer job he had with the company, much more than he should have received. She also wrote checks to herself and coded them to make it look like payments to legitimate creditors.
She also used company credit cards and other funds to pay for such things as tickets to a Blake Shelton concert, personal debts and numerous computers and other electronics.
She also pilfered cash from the company at least once a week, Stewart said.
In a written statement, Stewart said, Stretch blamed her stealing on her husband’s unemployment that began in 2010. She paid back $1,000 shortly after getting caught, which Stretch wrote showed her sincere commitment to repaying the debt. But Stewart said she hasn’t paid any more since then.
In an email to the business partners in March 2013, Stretch asked for forgiveness. “I understand that you intend to prosecute me,” she wrote. “But all I would like to ask is that we come to an agreement that we don’t put my name in the paper and I will be 100 percent honest with all the questions that you have.”
In exchange for the guilty pleas, Stewart dropped 10 other charges.
Keith Epps: 540/374-5404