Even if Charlotte Baghose sold her car, her house and all the belongings inside it, she couldn’t come close to repaying all the money she stole from her employer of 20 years.
Baghose, 67, was sentenced to nine years in prison Friday and ordered to pay restitution of $100,000 — though a judge found that she actually stole about $650,000 from ZF Industries, a Gainesville transmission plant.
Hall County Senior Superior Court Judge John Girardeau said by law, he had to account for Baghose’s current financial state and her future earning abilities when deciding on restitution.
The judge concluded that with Baghose’s age and a prison term during which she would have "zero ability to pay," he could not order her to repay the full amount stolen.
"That conclusion to me is just unsettling, that I cannot order full restitution," Girardeau said.
Baghose was convicted by a jury last month of 25 felony counts of theft by deception and one count of forgery in a scheme involving checks she forged at the company while working as manager of accounting. She was indicted for forging 40 checks that totaled $43,000, but ZF Industries officials said a company audit turned up 600 suspect checks for a loss of $657,000.
The nine-year prison term imposed by Girardeau, with an additional 11 years of probation, was the lengthiest sentence handed down among four recent embezzlement cases involving Hall County women.
In August, a Gwinnett County judge sentenced Michelle Sanchez of Gainesville to four years in prison for stealing $600,000 from a Buford real estate developer. In April, Peggy Leigh Walker of Clermont was sentenced in Gwinnett County Superior Court to eight years in prison for stealing $1.2 million from toolmaker Makita USA. In December, Dianne Ray also got four years for the theft of $500,000 from Gastroenterology Associates of Gainesville.
In contrast to Baghose’s case, those three women pleaded guilty.
On Friday, Assistant District Attorney Juliet Aldridge asked the judge to sentence Baghose to 12 years in prison.
Aldridge said throughout the case and trial, Baghose showed "a complete denial of responsibility and lack of any remorse."
Elizabeth Umberson, the North American President of ZF Industries, testified Friday that she was "dismayed that Ms. Baghose has never admitted any responsibility for this, and accused other employees of ZF who had nothing to do with it.
"She clearly will say anything to avoid responsibility for her own actions," Umberson said.
Baghose did not address the court.
The assets owned by Baghose probably won’t go far toward her restitution to ZF Industries.
According to court testimony, Baghose owns a home that was valued at $237,000 prior to the real estate collapse, but it is heavily mortgaged and she is $12,000 behind on payments. Her daughter acknowledged that Baghose owned an exotic African tortoise and the home contained numerous boxes from the mail-order shopping network QVC.
Aldridge said prosecutors believe Baghose spent "thousands of dollars per month" on mail-order goods.
The judge said he would allow the state to seize any items that were purchased through QVC to go toward the restitution. He also said prosecutors could seize and sell the turtle.
The judge called the case "very sad."
"It’s sad because you’re 67 years old and these last few years should have been among the most satisfying," Girardeau said. "Instead, you’re going to spend some of them in a harsh environment."