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Lancaster woman admits embezzling $1.8 million from doctor’s office

A bookkeeper admitted in Erie County Court on Thursday that she took more than $1.8 million over seven years from the medical practice where she was employed.

Suzanne Glawatz, 53, of 19 Katelyn Lane, Lancaster, spent the money on a Mercedes-Benz, several family vacations and her child’s law school education, according to Erie County prosecutors.

Glawatz, who was earning about $46,000 a year, “appears to have been motivated by greed and a desire to impress others with her financial status,” the District Attorney’s Office said in a statement. Her lawyer attributed her motivations to other factors aside from “simple greed” but refused to elaborate.

Glawatz appeared shell-shocked as two prosecutors detailed her wrongdoing over seven years, and as County Court Judge Michael D’Amico asked her if she knew that she need not admit guilt, as she could have a grand jury review the case and go to trial if necessary.

But in a soft yet certain voice she pleaded guilty to a felony charge of first-degree grand larceny, which carries a maximum 25-year prison sentence. She also pleaded guilty to a felony charge of criminal tax fraud for the benefit she gained by not claiming her ill-gotten gains on tax returns. That crime could place her in prison for up to seven years.

D’Amico could impose a range of less-severe options. He said he will sentence Glawatz at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 11. Meanwhile, he allowed her to remain free.

Prosecutors raised no objection because they expect Glawatz to be making restitution, and she could not do so from jail.

She has paid back about $41,000 and agreed to a have a judgment placed against her for the unpaid balance of about $1.78 million.

Glawatz stole the money in two ways, Assistant District Attorney Brian P. Dassero told the judge. Over seven years – from February 2007 to the time suspicions were raised in February of this year – Glawatz pocketed more than $722,000 in co-pays and payments coming into the practice of Dr. Marcelle Grassi, a Cheektowaga dermatologist.

Also, as a longtime employee, she persuaded the doctor to loan her money over the years, for her child’s education and other needs.

But Glawatz then repaid the doctor from other sums she was taking from her practice. This netted Glawatz another $1.1 million.

“This is obviously a very disturbing situation for both parties here – both the doctor and my client,” said Eric A. Bloom, the lawyer who represented Glawatz, when asked why she chose to plead guilty now.

“We are trying to obviously get past this as quickly as we can. We are trying to mitigate the damages as best as we can. And we are trying to get everybody to move on with their lives as best we can,” he said. “And that’s the reason she pled.”

He said Glawatz is working again but would not say where.

A person who answered the phone at Grassi’s office Thursday said the doctor was away and not available for comment.

With family members in court for support, Glawatz read a brief statement admitting to the conduct that Dassero described. She also explained to the judge that over the years she has taken medication for major depression and been treated for dissociative disorder. But she offered that information only to respond to D’Amico’s questions about her health and frame of mind as she prepared to plead guilty.