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Ex-Planned Parenthood accountant gets prison for embezzling

LOCKPORT – Melissa S. Kwoka, the former accountant for Planned Parenthood of Western New York who embezzled more than $100,000 from the organization, was sentenced Friday to one to three years in state prison for failing to pay the money back.

Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon chose a prison term for Kwoka, 46, of Corinthia Street, Lockport, who admitted to a violation of probation on her original guilty plea to second-degree grand larceny.

In 2013, Kwoka was ordered by State Supreme Court Justice John L. Michalski to repay $102,733 to Planned Parenthood, which she had stolen between August 2012 and March 2013 by forging checks to herself and her husband.

Originally, Michalski sentenced Kwoka to five years’ probation that began with six months in jail, and that time will count toward her state prison sentence. Like Michalski before her, Sheldon could have given Kwoka a sentence of as long as five to 15 years.

The probation violation case was heard in Niagara County because Kwoka is a Niagara County resident and her probation supervision was transferred to Niagara, even though her felony was committed in Erie County.

Niagara County Assistant District Attorney Ryan K. Parisi said he will prepare a civil judgment ordering Kwoka to complete restitution after her release from prison. Parisi said he doesn’t know yet exactly how much Kwoka still owes, but the judgment will be a matter of public record.

Kwoka had a history of stealing money before she was ever hired by Planned Parenthood, including three convictions for thefts. In May 2002, she was fired as a secretary from the City of Lockport Building Inspection Department for taking $212 from the office.

While she was free on bail awaiting her original sentencing in 2013, Kwoka admitted to stealing $520 from a friend’s bank account so she could make a car payment, Lockport police said at the time.

Michalski had ordered Kwoka to pay $647.78 a month to Planned Parenthood and $208.33 per month to M&T Bank, on which the fraudulent checks were drawn, to reimburse the bank for the $25,000 it paid Planned Parenthood for failing to catch some of the thefts.