A former PTA treasurer made a tearful apology in Erie County Court Friday for stealing thousands of dollars from the parent group and a sports club.
"I am sincerely sorry for the bad choices I made," Jennifer Seyfang said in court. "I never intended to affect the children this way."
Seyfank, 38, has paid more than $14,000 in restitution to the PTA of Lindbergh Elementary School in the Town of Tonawanda and more than $9,500 in restitution to the Greater Buffalo Gymnastic Booster Club.
"I will lead a better life going forward," she told Judge Kenneth F. Case.
Case told Seyfang that he believed she was sincere in her remorse. He sentenced her to spend three years on probationary supervision for her guilty pleas to fourth-degree grand larceny and fourth-degree attempted grand larceny.
The judge also ordered 200 hours of community service in a role that does not include handling any money.
Seyfang’s attorney had asked the judge to consider giving Seyfang a conditional discharge, which also had been recommended by the probation office in its pre- sentencing report.
The embezzlements were discovered in August 2017 when the PTA’s board noticed that the treasurer was depositing checks from fundraisers into its credit union account but that no cash deposits were being made.
While an investigation was going on into the missing money, students had to hold new fundraisers to make up the lost money, which paid for field trips and school musicals.
Eventually Seyfang was arrested and confessed to that theft and to taking money from the booster club.
Defense lawyer Sunil Bakshi told the judge that Seyfang never intended to take the money without paying it back, that she had just gotten behind on her finances.
District Attorney John J. Flynn said after the sentencing that he also believed that was the case.
“From what I understand, she used the money for living expenses,” Flynn said.
The DA reiterated the advice he gives whenever a case like Seyfang’s comes up.
“You have to have some checks and balances,” Flynn said.
Never have only one person in charge of finances for any group, he said.
Attorney John Rogowski, who also represented Seyfang, indicated in court that had such measures been in place, Seyfang would not have been tempted to break the law.
“It wasn’t selfishness or greed,” he said. “It was a crime of opportunity, and she couldn’t resist.”
The judge also noted that Seyfang, who lost her job because of her conviction, had never been arrested before.
“What happened here was out of character,” Case said. “You have no one to blame but yourself, and I know you know that.”
Case mentioned restitution was fully paid as part of his decision not to order jail time. She could have received up to four years in prison. At the request of the defense, the judge also said he would make a note for probation that Seyfang is allowed to leave Erie County when she needs to for her children.