The former senior clerk for the Southold Town Justice Court pleaded guilty Wednesday to stealing $230,000 in fines, bail money and other revenue from town court coffers, prosecutors said.
When Christine Stulsky, 65, of New Suffolk, is sentenced March 11 on second-degree grand larceny, she is expected to get 6 months in jail and 5 years of probation, the Suffolk County district attorney's office said.
She admitted stealing the money over a five-year period that started January 2009 and will be required to repay the funds, beginning with $50,000 this week, according to District Attorney Thomas Spota.
Her job was to collect and deposit funds and reconcile the court bank accounts, but she used her position to steal the money to pay for everyday living expenses, prosecutors said.
Her attorney, Lane Bubka of Riverhead, said his client feels "terrible" about betraying the trust of her colleagues but that she had been facing "significant turmoil."
"She raised two children on her own, and she was in a terrible car accident and she had a son with numerous addictions . . ." Bubka said. "When she fell down on her luck and couldn't pay the bills, she turned to something she assumed would be short term."
At the time, she had no equity in her home, the attorney said, but with the help of friends and family who renovated her home for free, she has built some equity and drawn a loan on that. Those funds will be used to repay the town, Bubka said.
Stulsky had started working for the court in 1980 and resigned when she was arrested last March, prosecutors said. Afterward, the town launched an independent audit into the court's accounts.
"She's just sorry it happened," Bubka said, "and wants to make sure she repays everybody."