A former Elmont Memorial Library administrative assistant who prosecutors said stole more than $260,000 from her employer apologized in court Wednesday, saying she's ready to pay her "debt to society."
Acting State Supreme Court Justice Helene Gugerty then sentenced Sheila Seward to 1 to 3 years in prison. She also ordered her to pay about $237,000 in restitution under terms of a plea bargain negotiated by the prosecution and defense.
Seward, 59, of West Babylon, pleaded guilty in September to a felony grand larceny offense after facing charges that also had included official misconduct and falsifying business records.
"I just want to say that I'm very sorry ... It was a desperate time," Seward told the judge Wednesday. "I haven't taken a dime from anybody since and I never will again. I will pay my debt to society."
Prosecutors said Seward had been responsible for preparing the library's payroll when she started adding more payment, without authorization, to her paychecks that she labeled "other compensation."
The theft happened between 2012 and 2018, and Seward used the money for medical bills and college tuition, according to Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas' office.
Singas said in a statement Wednesday that Seward stole the money "by increasing the amount on her paycheck more than 100 times during a six-year period."
The district attorney added: "I thank the Elmont Memorial Library for their cooperation in this investigation and I’m glad that the stolen money will be returned to this important community fixture."
Prosecutors said the scheme came to light during a financial review that an outside accounting firm did for the library before officials there notified Singas' office in September 2018, around the same time Seward resigned from her job.
Seward's attorney, John N. Russo of Central Islip, said in an email later Wednesday that his client is the single mother of two daughters who struggled to provide "the best life she could" for them.
"She clearly made some mistakes along the way, which she has acknowledged," Russo also said in part. "She, as well as her daughters, are obviously paying dearly for her lapse in judgment."
The attorney added that Seward "will attempt to move forward with her life after serving her time."
Wednesday's sentencing was a hybrid proceeding, in which some participants appeared in a Mineola court and others took part virtually.