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Bookkeeper begins 6 months in jail Partial restitution to two companies ordered

Debbie A. Lewandowski began a six-month jail term Thursday but was ordered to repay only $60,000 of the $319,307 she stole from two local companies while employed as their bookkeeper-secretary.

Lewandowski, 38, of Baywood Drive, Cheektowaga, was taken from State Supreme Court Justice Penny M. Wolfgang's courtroom in handcuffs after her sentencing. She had pleaded guilty to grand larceny for thefts of $50,000 from Keepsake Homes of Buffalo and $269,307 from George A. Keene Inc. of Amherst.

Lewandowski, who has not yet made any restitution payments, signed confessions of judgment four months ago for her pre-indictment pleas in the thefts.

Lewandowski's thefts were discovered after she was fired by Keepsake Homes in mid-2004. Although company officials contacted authorities about missing funds, Lewandowski was hired that year by the Keene business, prosecutors Candace K. Vogel and John C. Doscher said.

Lewandowski used corporate funds to pay off debts on nine credit cards, the prosecutors said.

At the prison supply company, Lewandowski systematically paid off personal credit card debt through electronic transfers of company funds, court officials said. At the home building company, she forged checks and made payments through the theft of a key company official's credit card number.

George A. Keene Inc. managed to recoup $50,000 from employee-theft insurance and both companies can attach any future assets Lewandowski acquires to pay off her confession of judgments, minus any funds she manages to repay under her court-ordered restitution, court officials said.

A new bookkeeper hired by Keene after it fired Lewandow-ski for reasons unrelated to her thefts noticed problems with the company books that prompted company officials to contact the Amherst Police Department, Doscher said.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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