Most of us say "thanks" without thinking.
A Pasadena insurance agent was sentenced to 18 months in jail Wednesday for bilking clients out of more than $100,000.
Carolyn Nowicki, 44, was working for Main Street Insurance when she began a scheme in 2009, ultimately stealing more than $116,000 before she was caught in 2011, Maryland Assistant Attorney General Timothy Lake said.
The Pasadena resident stole insurance premiums from 57 people and businesses, and was charged with 88 counts of theft and fraud. Some of the individuals were victimized more than once.
"The victims, quite candidly, are entitled to see you in handcuffs going to jail, because that's something that you deserve," Circuit Court Judge Paul A. Hackner said.
Hackner sentenced Nowicki to six years, suspending all but 18 months, plus five years of probation, and ordered her to pay $116,181 in restitution. He recommended her for work release and ordered her to be taken into custody immediately, despite her request to turn herself in at a later time.
In December Nowicki entered an Alford plea to theft of more than $100,000. An Alford plea, which carries the same consequence as a guilty plea, allows a defendant to maintain his or her innocence while acknowledging the state has enough evidence to convict.
In exchange for the plea, the state did not prosecute on the remaining counts.
Nowicki on Wednesday said she wanted to take responsibility for her actions, but asked for leniency so she could take care of her elderly parents, who were in the Annapolis courtroom.
"The crimes that were committed should not have been committed," she said. "I do take responsibility for what I did, but I will say, as I've always said, that the evidence is misleading. But I truly am sorry and I've tried to live the right way ever since."
Hackner said he found it "interesting" that her new employer, a Pikesville-based insurance company, wrote letters to the court saying Nowicki had exhibited high standards and ethical behavior since she was hired after her termination from Main Street Insurance in 2011.
The judge also said he felt Nowicki was trying to "manipulate" the court by bringing her parents to the sentencing -- she told him they didn't have a ride home -- so she could begin her sentence at a later time.
"I don't see a person with moral fiber," Hackner said. "I don't a person with good character; I don't see a person with honesty. I see a person who was able to pull the wool over folks for periods of time."
Nowicki was convicted of theft and possession of cocaine in the early 1990s, Hackner said. She also faced other charges over the last 20 years, but wasn't convicted, according to online records.
Since Nowicki's scheme was uncovered, Main Street Insurance's income has decreased by 40 percent as customers have pulled away from the company, partner Joel Rice said. The company has undergone exhaustive efforts to examine accounts and correct any problems caused by Nowicki's actions, he said.