2017-09-07 / Courts

Judge goes beyond jail guidelines for firm’s bookkeeper

By Patti Brandt Burgess
Of The Enterprise staff

CAROLYN TAYLOR was sentenced to 2 1/2 to 20 years in prison on Tuesday for embezzling nearly $1 million from her Maple City employer, Leelanau Redi-Mix. CAROLYN TAYLOR was sentenced to 2 1/2 to 20 years in prison on Tuesday for embezzling nearly $1 million from her Maple City employer, Leelanau Redi-Mix. The honorable Thomas G. Power went outside of state guidelines in sentencing Carolyn D. Taylor to 2 1/2 to 20 years Tuesday in 13th Circuit Court.

Powers said Taylor, who was convicted of embezzlement, committed not a single theft from Leelanau Redi- Mix. Her crime involved a long course of conduct and multiple thefts, he said.

Guidelines called for a sentence of 21 to 35 months — which is way under what Taylor should serve, Power said.

Taylor, 52, was also ordered to pay restitution of $815,000, though Power said her thefts from the company likely came to more than $2 million.

Formerly of 13745 S. Armstrong Lake Road in Empire, Taylor was arrested in March on suspicion that she embezzled more than $100,000 from Redi-Mix, the Maple City business owned by Marilyn and Charles Flaska. Taylor had worked as a bookkeeper and accountant at the company for about 10 years and had been embezzling money for about six years.

Marilyn Flaska, flanked by several family members, read a victim’s impact statement at the sentencing.

Flaska said she was glad Taylor was going to prison and that the courts are taking her charges seriously.

“We started this company back in 1977 while raising our six children,” Flaska read. “The current embezzling charge covers all the crimes she committed against us, our family and our company ... We trusted Carolyn. She has completely violated our trust.

“We treated her like family as she continued to weave her web of deception,” Flaska read.

The Flaskas filed a complaint with the Leelanau County Sheriff’s Office in July 2016, telling detectives they suspected money was being taken from the company.

In February the family sued Taylor for $1.6 million plus court and attorney fees. Taylor’s daughters, Brook Taylor and Jennifer Clark, have been named in the lawsuit.

According to reports from a financial investigation by the Rehmann Group and by Leelanau Sheriff’s deputies, Taylor put her daughters on the Redi- Mix payroll and gave them thousands of dollars, though they were never employed by the company.

Money taken from the company was also used as a down payment on a house, car repairs, credit cards, utilities, entertainment and vacations. Money was also given to a volleyball league that Taylor coaches, reports have said.

The ordeal has been devastating financially to the company and the publicity has caused irreparable damage to the company’s reputation, Flaska said. And personally, the family has felt heartache, frustration, stress and low morale, she said.

Chief Assistant Prosecutor Doug Donaldson said he was satisfied with the sentence.

“It’s my job to give the judge the tools he needs to impose an appropriate sentence,” Donaldson said. “I believe he did that in this instance. While the act of embezzlement was substantial, Ms. Taylor had no prior record, including misdemeanors.

“Prison for someone who has never been to jail is likely to be a major culture shock,” he said.

Taylor was represented by Traverse City attorney Jay Zelenock.

“She’s pleaded guilty and is very sorry and ready to pay her debt to society,” Zelenock said.

Taylor also offered an apology in court Tuesday, saying that she remembers a day a few months ago when she was sitting outside the courtroom and Marilyn Flaska sat down next to her for a minute. She said at that moment she wished she had a few minutes to talk to Marilyn and Charlie Flaska alone, away from the courts.

“I just wanted a few moments alone to tell them how sorry I am — how sorry I am to have taken their money,” Taylor said. “I took away their peace of mind and they didn’t deserve it.”

Taylor also said she takes sole responsibility for her crime and will set up a payment plan to pay the Flaskas back once she completes her prison sentence.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever hit that goal,” she said. “But I’ll do all I can to try and hit that goal.”

Taylor is currently in the process of selling many of her assets, and the Armstrong Lake Road house is on the market.

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