The guilty plea of York Symphony Orchestra's former office manager -- who embezzled more than $200,000 from the orchestra -- almost didn't happen.
Phyllis (LoPresti) Shoff, 56, of the Travel Inn, 300 Commerce Drive in New Cumberland, appeared before Common Pleas Judge Gregory M. Snyder Wednesday morning.
Senior deputy prosecutor Justin Kobeski informed the judge the plea agreement called for Shoff to serve three months in county prison, followed by 10 years of probation.
Shoff embezzled the money over a seven-year period to support her gambling addiction, Kobeski told the judge, and suffers from unspecified medical conditions.
"Somebody is going to have to convince me ... that this deal is appropriate," Snyder said. "There are a lot of people who steal money for a lot of reasons. ... I understand the defendant may have medical conditions but, quite frankly, that didn't stop her from committing serious crimes."
New deal: Kobeski and public defender James Rader spoke privately, then went back to the judge with a new plea agreement that added six months of house arrest.
Snyder accepted Shoff's guilty plea to two counts of each of theft and access-device fraud, all third-degree felonies.
He sentenced her to the agreed-upon punishment: nine to 23 months in York County Prison, followed by 10 years of probation, plus a mental-health evaluation and possible counseling. She must also attend crime-impact classes.
As part of the agreement, Shoff will spend the first three months in prison and the next six months on electronically monitored house arrest. She must pay in advance for all house-arrest costs, the judge ordered.
Restitution: She also must pay a total of $220,962.63 in restitution -- $177,967.85 to Federal Insurance Co., which reimbursed the orchestra for that amount of stolen money, and $42,994.78 to the orchestra itself, for losses not covered by its insurance.
From July 2004 to April 2007, Shoff wrote herself checks from the orchestra account to gamble and pay personal bills, and used orchestra credit cards to pay bills and for hotel rooms during her casino visits.
"I was the office manager and I paid the bills. ... I wrote myself the checks to myself to cover my gambling ... so my family wouldn't know," she said.
Asked by Snyder where the money went, Shoff said, "I gambled it."
The judge granted a defense request to allow Shoff to remain free for three weeks, so her attorney could consult with prison officials about her medical conditions. She must report to prison on April 26.
Shoff declined comment as she left the courtroom.
"It is a sad case for everybody involved, except perhaps for the casinos that she frequented," said Rader, her defense attorney. "It shows that gambling can evolve into a serious addiction just like any other addiction that results in harmful and negative consequences."
Satisfied: York Symphony Orchestra treasurer Jolleen Biesecker said the symphony is satisfied with the plea agreement. She said the orchestra's primary goal was to ensure Shoff could never embezzle again.
Biesecker said the orchestra's administrative arm has been revamped to ensure no one can steal from the organization again. The revamping has also cut costs, she said.
In a written victim-impact statement, Biesecker wrote there is no way to measure the impact of Shoff's crimes:
"The Symphony's 79-year reputation of being good stewards of the public's generosity was violated. There will likely be donors that NEVER return. Ultimately, we had people trust us with their money, and it was stolen from us."
YSO 'doing well': Henry Nixon, who was the orchestra's executive director until retiring Sept. 1, said YSO has paid its credit-card companies the nearly $43,000 not covered by insurance, and did so without programming being affected.
He said the orchestra is "doing well" financially.
During the hearing, Snyder noted his own connection to the orchestra.
"My father was a member of York Symphony Orchestra for probably 40 years, as a musician," and also served on its board, the judge said.
-- Reach Elizabeth Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org, 505-5429 or twitter.com/ydcrimetime.