The former manager of a South Fork-based radio station group pleaded guilty in federal court last week for allegedly making more than $250,000 in unauthorized personal charges on a company credit card.
Stephanie McNamara Bitis of Sag Harbor, who served as the general manager of the Water Mill-based Long Island Radio Broadcasting LLC from 2015 until 2017, pleaded guilty in Eastern District Court on Nov. 16 to access device fraud during a virtual proceeding before Judge Gary R. Brown. The single count carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, but the sentencing guidelines in this case recommend 12 to 18 months.
The radio company, which owns WEHM / 92.9/96.9 FM, WBAZ /102.5 FM and WBEA / "The Beach" 101.7 FM, in a statement said it terminated Bitis in 2017 for "lackluster financial results" and hired a law firm to investigate a suspicious transaction following her termination. The radio company said the investigation found that Bitis, 58, charged a family vacation to Aruba, orthodontist visits and boat maintenance to the company account.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of New York and the Federal Bureau of Investigations and Bitis was charged on Oct. 20. The radio company’s insurance carrier reimbursed the company for $250,000 in losses, Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Bagnuola said during the Nov. 16 court proceeding.
"These radio stations are a passion — a true labor of love for all of us who work here. I was shocked and saddened that someone would do this to us — especially in such a small, tight-knit community," Lauren Stone, company owner and WEHM host, said in a statement. "I’m thankful that justice has been served and that she will not be able to defraud anyone else."
But Bitis’ attorney, Thomas Kenniff of Raiser & Kenniff PC, called the allegations in the radio company’s news release "sensationalized" and said his client made the business a successful and professional operation while she worked there. He said the amount charged was much less than what the company alleged and that Bitis pleaded guilty at her arraignment to put the incident behind her.
"This one incident does not define who my client is," he said. "For decades she has worked in the broadcasting industry and has had a long career. Now that she has closure on this case she looks forward to moving on in her career and with her family."
Bitis’ sentencing is set for March 26.