Wednesday, 22 May 2013 17:41

Former Florida Body Shop Bookkeeper Sentenced to 3 Years

Angela Wray, 36, a former bookkeeper for Celico Auto Body in Bunnell, FL, was recently sentenced to three years in prison and Circuit Judge J. David Walsh told her she was responsible for paying back $58,964 she stole from Celico Auto Body.

The owner of the business, Carlos Celico, had noticed his business was low on cash flow but he originally chalked it up to the poor economy, he said.

Wray’s body went limp after the verdict was read and two bailiffs caught her before she fell to the floor.

“I do not find this to be a ridiculous or a silly charge,” said Walsh. “It’s a very serious charge.”

 

While the defendant sat in a chair, Walsh noticed she was having trouble sitting up and told bailiffs to let her lean over and place her head between her knees. By then, a third bailiff entered the courtroom to assist. All three pulled her out of the chair and allowed her to lie down on the carpet with her feet elevated. The shackles on her wrists and ankles remained.

On March 28, a six-panel jury unanimously agreed Wray had stolen from her employer and used the money to take trips, pay off credit card debt and go dining and shopping. Jurors reached their verdict in 12 minutes.

Wray’s employment at Celico Auto Body ended in the fall of 2010. By the summer of 2011, authorities were notified of some discrepancies in the business’s bookkeeping. Later that year, she was arrested by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

In a separate case in New Jersey,  Wray had pleaded guilty in June 2011 in a New Jersey Superior Court to a theft charge and was sentenced to 45 days in jail. She was convicted of stealing $44,000 from a landscaping company she had worked for from 2004 to 2006.

The story of that arrest was brought to Celico’s attention and he decided to review his company’s accounting. He soon contacted law enforcement with his discoveries.

“(The sentence) should’ve been a little bit longer, but it’s OK,” Celico said.

Walsh also sentenced Wray to 15 years of probation to be served after she is released from prison. The judge said she could cut that probationary period in half if she pays the restitution in full by then and commits no violations.

During closing arguments, Assistant State Attorney Jennifer Dunton said Wray “made the conscious decision” to steal from Celico 127 times during a 3½-year period.

“She knew what was being checked and what wasn’t,” said Dunton. “No one was (checking) behind her and she knew it. She blamed Mr. Celico, attacked his business practices and then said it was a loan. There’s been no acceptance of responsibility in this case,” Dunton told the judge.

Celico received $25,000 in insurance as a partial reimbursement. He said he borrowed another $35,000 from a private individual. He said he did so in order to save his business. He still owes money to that person, he said.

Six people testified on Wray’s behalf, including her husband, Flagler County Sheriff’s Deputy Christopher Wray, who said he always let his wife handle the family’s finances. He said he never noticed changes in lifestyle —even though the family took regular trips to Disney World and SeaWorld—and said he believed his wife never stole anything from Celico Auto Body.

“How could she be convicted when there’s nothing to show for it?” he said on the stand.

During his testimony, Christopher Wray said his wife told him not to testify during her trial. He said she advised him not to do so “for fear of retaliation.”

Defense attorney Regina Nunnally asked him about Celico’s “connections” within the Sheriff's Office and whether he or his wife worried that was where the retaliation would come from.

“(My wife) didn’t want anyone pointing fingers at me,” Christopher Wray said. “(She) didn’t want the sheriff coming after me in any shape or form.”

Angela Wray will be credited for the 65 days she has spent in jail. She will spend the remaining time in the custody of the Florida Department of Corrections.

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