A Gahanna woman who admitted to stealing nearly $75,000 from a Mt. Sterling church daycare while employed at the facility will spend six months in the county jail, following sentencing on Thursday, Jan. 9.
Valerie Lonsinger, 41, pleaded guilty in Madison County Common Pleas Court in October to five counts of forgery and one count of theft, stemming from incidents that occurred between 2007 and 2012 at the First United Methodist Church Daycare in the village.
Lonsinger admitted using the daycare’s debit card and checkbook at least 128 times to pay her mortgage and other personal bills.
Visiting Judge Steven P. Beathard acknowledged Ohio sentencing guidelines in place at the time Lonsinger was charged spared the woman from prison for the fourth-degree felony conviction. The legislature recently stiffened those guidelines for defendants who violate positions of trust.
Beathard said Lonsinger was trusted by Pastor Mike Berne and others at the church and deserved to spend some time behind bars for her actions over the six years.
Berne and other church representatives were in the courtroom on Thursday to request leniency for Lonsinger.
“Valerie is basically a good person. The crime does not define her as a person,” Berne said.
He acknowledged church insurance covered $50,000 of the missing money — $74,700 in total.
“But trust is more difficult to restore,” Berne noted.
Lonsinger offered a tearful apology to Berne and the others for her actions.
In addition to the jail time, Beathard ordered Lonsinger to serve two years of community control and repay $24,720 — the balance of the money stolen — during that time period.
Failure to repay the funds could earn Lonsinger five years in prison, Beathard said.
Also on Thursday, Matthew L. Grimmett, 30, of Columbus, was sentenced to 10 days in jail and two years of community control for a series of thefts from his sister.
Grimmett pleaded guilty to theft and possession of criminal tools in December. He apologized to his sister on Thursday.
In turn, the sister requested leniency for Grimmett — an admitted drug abuser.
“I don’t want to see him go to jail. I want him to be the person he used to be,” she said.
Beathard also ordered Grimmett to make $2,600 in restitution for the stolen items. He delayed the start of Grimmett’s sentence until Monday, Jan. 13, and ordered him screened for drugs when he surrenders that day.
“Don’t show up ‘loaded,’” Beathard cautioned.