SARANAC LAKE - A local woman admitted last week that there is enough evidence to convict her of falsifying business records in connection with the embezzlement of thousands of dollars from the Saranac Lake medical practice where she worked as its bookkeeper.
North Country Family Physicians has also filed a civil lawsuit against Mary Harvey of Saranac Lake that claims she stole $305,000 from the practice over a nearly 10-year period, until she was fired in November 2009.
Harvey, who was 61 at the time of her arrest in June 2010, was initially charged with second-degree grand larceny. Police said at the time that she had stolen over $100,000 from the practice, which includes doctors Barry Kilbourne, George Cook and Roy Slaunwhite.
Harvey appeared last week before Franklin County Court Judge Robert Main Jr. and entered an Alford plea to a felony charge of first-degree falsifying business records, a felony, as part of plea deal with the prosecution, according to the county's chief assistant district attorney, Jack Delehanty. An Alford plea is a legal term that means Harvey maintains her innocence but admits there is enough evidence to convict her.
"The defendant recognized that the proof that was going to be presented to her at any trial was of such a compelling nature that her likelihood of being convicted was very great," Delehanty said. "In order to avoid the potential for severe consequences on a sentencing arrangement, she agreed to plead guilty nonetheless."
Contacted by phone Monday evening, Harvey declined to comment. A message left with her attorney, Peter Dumas of Malone, late Monday hadn't been returned as of press time.
As part of the plea agreement, Delehanty said Harvey has agreed to make restitution by forfeiting $183,000 in retirement benefits she accrued during her nearly 30 years of employment at North Country Family Physicians.
"She will have to relinquish her interest in a profit-sharing plan, the details of which are known to the practice," Delehanty said. "They agreed to accept it without prejudice to pursuing the difference."
Harvey is scheduled to be sentenced in January. Delehanty said the prosecution is recommending a split sentence of jail time and five years probation, in addition to the restitution. The doctors have said they'd like Harvey to serve a minor jail sentence, maybe just a day behind bars, Delehanty said.
"If the practice is satisfied with it, then our office is satisfied," he said.
North Country Family Physicians filed a lawsuit against Harvey on Nov. 22 in Franklin County State Supreme Court. It says the practice relied on Harvey to handle all aspects of its accounting, including preparing deposit slips and transporting cash, checks and credit card deposits to the bank.
In October 2009, the practice had an audit of its receipts and records performed. The complaint says auditors found that "on some days a part of the cash received was not deposited and on other days none of the cash received was deposited.
"The discrepancy between cash received and cash deposited did not occur on the few times that another staff member took the deposits to the bank on the rare occasion when the defendant was not available to do so," the complaint reads.
The initial audit covered a period of several months. It was later expanded to cover a period from January 2000 to October 2009. The lawsuit claims Harvey "wrongfully converted to her own use and benefit cash in the total sum of $305,988."
Harvey also declined to comment on the lawsuit.