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Barry Pearlstein sentenced to 18 months in jail after embezzling from Garden City steakhouse, DA says

Barry Pearlstein, of Florida, a former manager of

Barry Pearlstein, of Florida, a former manager of Ruth's Chris Steak House in Garden City, surrendered to Nassau County police on Dec. 1, 2014. Credit: NCPD

A Florida man who embezzled more than $230,000 from a Garden City steakhouse while working as the office manager was sentenced Thursday to 18 months in jail, prosecutors said.

Barry Pearlstein, 70, of Orlando, received two consecutive 9-month jail terms after pleading guilty to third-degree grand larceny and first-degree falsifying business records, prosecutors said. Judge Philip Grella also ordered Pearlstein to pay all the money back to Ruth's Chris Steak House, the Nassau County district attorney's office said.

Pearlstein had worked for the restaurant for more than 11 years as manager and income auditor when an internal investigation by the company showed he had pocketed cash meant for the restaurant's bank account, authorities said.

He took the cash on 511 separate dates from Jan. 30, 2009, to May 24, 2014, and falsified records to hide his theft. He was fired last June, prosecutors said.

Defense attorney David Besso of Bay Shore said when his client pleaded guilty in January that Pearlstein has self-esteem problems and spent the money on others.

"He's a very generous man with other people's money," Besso said. "He didn't use it on himself. He lives very modestly. He would spend money on other people and he's done that his whole life."

Pearlstein wanted to "make friends and feel good about his friendships," the attorney said. "It's sad in the final analysis. . . . It was just a lifelong situation, which he's obviously very contrite for."

The consecutive sentences -- one sentence after the other -- are somewhat unusual. Often, defendants with guilty pleas on multiple charges get concurrent sentences.

Besso said all the parties involved believe Pearlstein should be punished but not "hurt" at his age. Prosecutors wanted him to spend a year in jail, the attorney said, and two 9-month sentences equate to one year after time off for good behavior.

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