PITTSFIELD -- A Cheshire woman was sentenced on Wednesday to two years in jail after she admitted to embezzling thousands of dollars over the course of a decade from the bank where she was employed.
At an emotional hearing in Berkshire Superior Court, Jennifer A. Thurston, 40, tearfully told the court that while employed as the head teller at a TD Banknorth branch in Pittsfield she embezzled from the bank. Her attorney, Jill Sheldon, said Thurston was full of "remorse, guilt and shame" over what she had done, while the defendant's family members made fervent pleas in Thurston's defense, telling the court that she was a good person who was a "victim of circumstance."
According to Second Assis tant Berkshire District Attor ney Robert W. Kinzer III, Thurs ton was let go from the bank in 2009 after she admitted to taking $2,000 from her till. Thurston disputed this, telling the court that she had been given a bad check and had falsified the numbers so she wouldn't get fired.
The prosecutor said that an audit by the bank the next year revealed that Thurston had stolen more than $110,000 from the branch before she was fired. Thurston also disputed these facts, saying she took much less than what the bank alleged.
She did admit that she likely stole close to $70,000 over a 10 year period. According to Sheldon, her client took the money to take care of her family during a difficult period that included medical and other expenses.
"There were no flashy cars, no flashy house," the attorney said. "She tried to pay some of it back, but it got out of control."
Kinzer said that many other people face these kinds of difficulties and don't resort to stealing from their employers.
According to the prosecutor, these types of crimes have a hidden cost since customers could end up seeing a rise in the price of doing business with a bank after a large theft like this one.
He asked for a state prison sentence of between two and three years for Thurston.
Sheldon asked the court to sentence her client to probation and said Thurston's family could provide about $50,000 in restitution over a two-year period.
Thurston pleaded guilty to single counts of embezzlement by a bank employee and larceny over $250 as an ongoing an continuing offense.
The judge, before sentencing the defendant, said that Thurston may not be a bad person, but that "she did a bad thing." He sentenced her to two years at the Berkshire County Jail & House of Correction followed by two years of probation.
The investigation was conducted members of the Pittsfield Police Department.