By Ed Meyer
Beacon Journal staff writer
The former deputy fiscal officer of the Cuyahoga Falls Library was given a suspended prison sentence and ordered to pay full restitution in connection with a long-running scheme in which she embezzled nearly $370,000 in library fees and fines from overdue books, authorities said.
Theresa M. Karm, 55, of Tallmadge, pleaded guilty to one felony count of aggravated theft Wednesday and was sentenced immediately by Summit County Common Pleas Judge Lynne Callahan.
Karm, who had been scheduled to go to trial today, was given a three-year, suspended prison term; five years of probation and six months of house arrest under condition that she pay restitution totaling $369,848, prosecutors said.
In exchange for the plea to a third-degree felony, a second felony charge of theft in office was dismissed in the court-approved plea bargain.
Michael Bowler, the woman’s attorney, said Karm has paid $10,000 as the first installment of the restitution order.
Library Director Kevin Rosswurm declined to comment on the settlement. He said he was still reviewing terms of the deal with the prosecutor’s office.
The case came to light in March when Karm was fired, and police said later that the culmination of a three-month investigation uncovered a lengthy series of financial discrepancies found during an audit of the library’s books.
Karm is accused of stealing the money in small amounts, beginning in 2007, for such things as printer fees charged to library customers and fines for overdue books, audio CDs and DVD movies.
According to records released by the public library earlier this year, the library took in $36,778 in patron fines in 2005. By 2008, that number was slashed to just $18,104 in late fees.
The revenue continued to slide in each of the following years, dropping to a low of $11,257 in 2011, the records showed.
As deputy fiscal officer, Karm was the only worker responsible for collecting the library’s daily cash intake.
Bowler, Karm’s lawyer, called the plea deal “a fair outcome.”
“It is obviously a case that oftentimes would call for prison,” Bowler said, “but there’s not going to be any restitution if she’s in prison and can’t pay, so [library officials] and the prosecution figured that restitution was the most important issue.”
Talks leading up to the settlement had been taking place “for quite a while,” Bowler said. “There was no real likelihood it was going to trial.”
Ed Meyer can be reached at 330-996-3784 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.