Defendant pleads guilty while jury waits

Last updated: August 12. 2014 4:03PM - 279 Views
By Jane Beathard jbeathard@civitasmedia.com

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The jury trial of a woman accused of stealing thousands of dollars while servicing prison cash machines was averted abruptly on Tuesday when Lisa M. Ball, 31, of Galena, pleaded guilty to a single count of grand theft.

While about 30 prospective jurors waited in the hallway, Ball admitted to pocketing money from change and cash-conversion machines at London Correctional Institution between May and August last year.

Ball worked for Cleveland-based Franklin Services at the time. The company provides change and cash-to-card machines in prison vending areas.

Defense attorney Melissa Upthegood said an addiction to prescription painkillers led her client to steal.

Earlier this year, Madison County Common Pleas Judge Eamon Costello denied drug treatment instead of conviction for Ball, based on the amount of money alleged missing.

Exactly how much money disappeared remains in dispute.

Assistant county prosecutor Nick Adkins put that dollar figure at $45,703, based on company accounting.

He said Ball took cash at least three times over four months, then reset machines to zero to disguise the thefts. Some tampering also took place before May 2013, but dates and amounts cannot be verified.

Ball initially told investigators her thefts might have reached $120,000 over many months, Adkins added.

Upthegrove said her client was led to make that admission and was likely “high” at the time. Ball admits to taking about $1,000 and eventually repaid that amount.

“That’s all Franklin Services knew about,” Upthegrove said.

She noted company executives themselves disagree on the amount of missing money. One says $42,000; another $47,000.

“The numbers don’t add up,” Upthegrove said.

Ball serviced the machines about four times a week before being fired in August last year, Adkins said.

While Ball’s restitution is undecided, her court costs are mounting.

Clerk Renae Zabloudil estimated those costs at $1,100, including $535 to pay the waiting jurors on Tuesday.

Ball will likely be ordered to pay those costs at an Oct. 2 sentencing hearing. She also faces up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine. However, she’s also eligible for community control.

In the meantime, Ball remains free on bond, pending a pre-sentence investigation.

Jane Beathard can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 1616 or via Twitter @JaneBeathard.

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