Chesterton Tribune

Post-Trib reporter sentenced to home detention for embezzling, blames gambling

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A Post-Tribune reporter who pleaded guilty to embezzling from the Gary Newspaper Guild, when she served as its treasurer, will escape prison time, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Indiana said.

On Thursday Karen Snelling, 50, of Chicago, was sentenced to six months of home detention and three years of probation.

Snelling was also ordered—per the plea agreement—to make full restitution of the $18,100 which she admitted embezzling, U.S. Attorney spokesperson Mary Hatton told the Chesterton Tribune today.

In a sentencing memorandum filed with the federal court on March 11, Snelling’s attorney, Robert Truitt, stated that his client began embezzling funds from the Gary Newspaper Guild’s checking account, to finance her gambling addiction.

Snelling “never married and since 1993 has lived with her sister on the far south side of Chicago,” Truitt stated. “Every night she would return home on the Toll Road and drive by the casino. She described her life as somewhat dull and boring and on one occasion she stopped by the casino and played the slot machines. Shortly thereafter, she was going to the casinos several times per week. She originally started playing the slot machines but found it boring so she turned to the much more high stakes game of baccarat.”

“Unfortunately,” Truitt stated, “she was not very good at the game and wound up losing far more than she won. She explains that she developed an addiction to gambling and could not stay away from the casinos, even though she had exhausted her personal moneys. In order to finance the continued gambling, she used the ATM card that allowed her to obtain moneys from the Newspaper Guild account. All in total, she withdrew $18,100 of Newspaper Guild money to finance her gambling. She ceased gambling when an audit revealed that she had been making unauthorized withdrawals from the Guild account.”

Truitt added that Snelling has “faced up to the fact that she truly did have a gambling addiction,” has joined Gamblers Anonymous, and has not gambled since January 2010.

The maximum penalty for embezzling from a labor organization is five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

The investigation into the embezzlement began when the Gary Newspaper Guild—which represents newsroom employees of the Post-Tribune—discovered funds to be missing in early 2008. During the Guild’s own investigation, Snelling “repeatedly refused to provide financial documents” to the Guild’s president, the Guild said in a statement released in September 2009. Ultimately Snelling offered to make restitution to avoid criminal charges but the Guild opted instead to contact the U.S. Department of Labor.

Posted 3/19/2010