Rachel Duncan walks out of the federal courthouse in Columbia on August 14, 2012.
Rachel Duncan walks into the federal courthouse in Columbia on August 14, 2012.
Columbia, SC (WLTX) - A federal judge has sentenced a woman who stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from her business to 30 months in prison.
Judge Joe Anderson issued his ruling on Rachel Duncan Tuesday afternoon at the federal courthouse in downtown Columbia.
Anderson also said Duncan must pay the South Carolina Hospitality Association $367,508.84 in restitution, and will be on three years' probation when released. She also must pay the IRS $85,333--money which will be paid only after she finishes her payments to the Hospitality Association.
"I'm very sorry I've lost the trust of so many people," Duncan said in court. "I'm genuinely sorry for the damage that I did to the Hospitality Association."
She also said she understands what she did to her family, saying, "I know I've hurt them deeply."
Back in April, Duncan pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud and tax evasion charges. Duncan was in charge of the Hospitality Association's finances.
The Hospitality Association's CEO, Tom Sponseller, killed himself in February in a parking garage just outside his office. Police say he left a suicide note detailing his despair over Duncan's apparent misdeeds.
Prosecutors said Duncan used much of the money for online gambling.
In court Tuesday, Duncan said she's been getting gambling counseling from First Baptist Church of Lexington. She acknowledged she had a problem--a problem she says began because she was sexually abused as a child. Duncan said her gambling addiction was a way that she coped with the pain.
"In the back of my mind, I always thought that I would hit the big one and be able to pay that money back," Duncan said.
The judge ordered Duncan to receive mental health treatment. When she's released from prison, Duncan will have to join a life skills program, and if she can't find a job within 60 days of getting out, she'll have to take vocational training.
The judge and prosecutors said they did not seek the maximum sentence in this case because they say Duncan did not use the money to better her lifestyle; instead, they agreed she was driven by addiction, not greed.
They also said her cooperation with the investigation--which allowed prosecutors to clear Sponseller of any wrongdoing immediately--swayed their decision.
Sponseller's widow, Meg, disagreed. In a letter sent to Judge Anderson before the sentencing, she urged him to consider that from her perspective, Duncan's actions "sent my husband...to his grave."
The judge though, said Tom Sponseller's suicide was an "extreme" and "unexpected" reaction to what happened, and didn't weigh his death when handing down the sentence.
Duncan, meanwhile, said that she wants to be a better person when she gets out, and to get her life back in order.
"People call gambling a victimless crime," Anderson told Duncan. "You are proof that that is not true."