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Woman whose embezzlement helped collapse firm gets three years [Richmond Times-Dispatch, Va.]

By Bill McKelway, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Va.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Oct. 23--The former accounting manager of a 30-year-old Ashland marketing firm will serve three years in prison after the firm's husband and wife founders on Tuesday described an embezzlement scheme that helped put the company out of business last month.

A clearly upset Judge Overton Harris of Hanover County Circuit Court rejected sentencing guidelines that called for no prison time and ordered Barbara Gail Mayhew to prison for three years, even rejecting pleas that the sickly woman be given time to first set her affairs and family responsibilities in order.

"No. It's time to go," the judge said bluntly as Mayhew family members sobbed and laid-off employees of the multimillion-dollar firm watched from the other side of the courtroom.

Mayhew, 55, a Goochland County resident and devoted church member who had worked for Adams Marketing Associates Inc. for 25 years, showed no emotion as she was handcuffed and escorted from the courtroom by a deputy.

Senior Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Angela O'Connor, in a blistering summary of Mayhew's eight-year-long theft, described her as a woman who broke the trust of other company employees, paid herself multiple paychecks each month and secretly took out health insurance policies for members of her family using company money.

O'Connor urged Overton to consider a prison term far beyond guidelines that would have allowed Mayhew to walk out of the courthouse instead of to jail.

"She's a good person who made a bad decision," Mayhew's lawyer countered, referring to her serious illnesses and her family's dependence on her.

Adams Marketing founders Kenneth Adams and his wife, Betty Joe, both in their mid-60s, described a decadeslong struggle to make a success of their marketing company, which until September supplied office products to the military worldwide and grossed as much as $15 million annually in sales.

Mayhew's illness in 2012 afforded a look at the books, and audits revealed embezzlements that O'Connor pegged at $569,903.94. "This case screams for a deviation" from sentencing guidelines, she said.

O'Connor said Mayhew "was a thief every week and every day. She bit the hand that fed her."

Kenneth Adams, near tears, described Mayhew as someone he regarded as a sister and who was trusted by other employees who saw her as a confidante. When she became sick, he and his wife cooked food for Mayhew and tended to her care. He said he and his wife stopped taking a salary and wrote checks totaling some $700,000 trying to keep the company afloat.

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The embezzlement occurred as a particularly tough business cycle took hold. Adams testified that in better times "if she had done what she did, we could have filled the hole that she dug."

The company, which had employed as many as 30 people at one time, was down to about 15 by the time it buckled last month.

Mayhew and a member of Gum Spring United Methodist Church spoke of family obligations that Mayhew took on herself, and of the sorrow she feels as a result of the thefts.

But Adams looked out at an audience in the courtroom that included former employees who had been by his side for as long as 25 years. Asked by O'Connor what the company had meant to him, he answered with two words: "Our life."

"Our friends tell us this is a victimless crime," he wrote in a statement for the court. "From where we sit we can see the faces of many victims that can never be made whole and will never recover emotionally or financially."

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(c)2013 the Richmond Times-Dispatch (Richmond, Va.)

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Distributed by MCT Information Services



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