A federal judge Wednesday weighed legal punishment of an admitted embezzler against compassion for a mother trying to provide daily care for her terminally ill son.
Federal defender John “Jay” McEntire asked U.S. District Court Judge Edward Shea to allow his 61-year-old client, Corine Bullard, to serve her prison term during the weekends to allow her to work and care for her son, 44-year-old Shaun Moore.
In the end, Shea sentenced Bullard to serve a year in prison and a year of electronic home monitoring in addition to paying back the more than $281,000 she stole.
“This is a difficult case not because Ms. Bullard is not guilty,” Shea said. “It’s difficult to talk in the presence of someone diagnosed with terminal cancer. No one can predict the day or the hour … of our death. It is a simple part of life.”
According to court records, Bullard was hired as a bookkeeper in 1999 by All City Contracting Inc. As part of a business relationship, she also began performing those same duties for Cozza Framing.
From 2005 until 2010, Bullard forged 196 checks from both businesses. Cozza Framing lost some $222,566 and All City Contracting lost about $59,000.
“She also manipulated the QuickBooks systems for the business to make it appear on the business accounting reports that the money had been paid to legitimate business vendors,” Assistant U.S. Attorney K. Jill Bolton wrote. “Instead, the 196 forged checks were made payable to Bullard or her personal credit card accounts.”
Mark Ereaux said he worked side by side with Bullard for 10 years at All City Contracting.
“It’s hard to explain the devastation this caused our company,” Ereaux said. “She’s very deceitful. She can put on the tears like nobody’s business.”
Ereaux said he’s sympathetic about her son’s condition, which wasn’t diagnosed until after most of the thefts occurred. But, he said, her actions made it difficult to keep his business alive, and he lost the money he was going to use for his kids’ college education.
“There is no justification for stealing,” Ereaux said. “She should pay for what she did.”
Bullard’s son, Moore, attended Wednesday’s hearing. He was released from the Idaho prison system last August on compassionate grounds based on his terminal condition.
“I only have a little bit of time left,” Moore told Shea. “I understand she’s made a mistake. But any time I can share with her would mean a lot.”
Bullard told Shea she will work as long as she can to pay off the $281,000 debt.
“What I did was very wrong. My actions have placed my time in jeopardy to be with my son,” she said.
Pending sentencing, Bullard said she has been working as a bookkeeper for International Tumble Stone in Rathdrum.
Shea noted that the bulk of Bullard’s thefts came during a recession when “the last thing these companies needed was this kind of crime being perpetrated against them.”
As for Bullard recently finding a job as a bookkeeper, Shea said it served as an example of the “generosity of the human spirit.”