Friday, August 24, 2012

After A Tearful Apology, A "Humbled" Former Archdiocese of Philadelphia CFO Is Hauled Off To Jail

Why did Anita Guzzardi, the former Chief Financial Officer of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, embezzle $906,000 from her employer?

In court today at a sentencing hearing, four different people offered four different explanations.

The prosecutor said Guzzardi didn't need the money, but she was greedy, and liked "nice things."

Guzzardi's addictions counselor said she was a pathological gambler who suffered from depression.

Guzzardi's older sister said she came from a dysfunctional family with a father who was a gambling addict and a mother who was a compulsive shopper and also abusive.

And finally, Guzzardi's lawyer said she felt betrayed by the archdiocese, after she read the 2005 grand jury report, and discovered that for decades the church she worked for had been covering up the sexual abuse of children.

Defense lawyer Louis R. Busico said his client had a clean record, was truly repentant, and had already paid back $260,000. Guzzardi posed no further menace to society, the defense lawyer argued, so putting her in jail would serve "no legitimate purpose." Why not just give her probation?

But Assistant District Attorney Lisa Caulfield, citing seven years of calculated criminal activity, and the sheer amount of the embezzlement, asked the judge to impose a sentence of 5 1/2 to 11 years.

The one thing at the sentencing hearing that everybody agreed on, including Guzzardi, was that she stole the money. From 2005 to 2011, Guzzardi, 42, of Haddon Heights, N.J., wrote 330 checks out of archdiocese accounts, to pay her own bills. She pleaded guilty to three third-degree felonies: theft by deception, unlawful use of a computer, and forgery.

Judge Ellen Ceisler told the defendant that a sentence of probation would be viewed as "a slap on the wrist," and would send the wrong message to society. But the district attorney had overlooked several mitigating factors, the judge said, including the defendant's "heartfelt remorse," and that $260,000 she had already paid back. So the judge sentenced Guzzardi to two to seven years in prison, plus seven years of probation. The judge also ordered Guzzardi to pay back another $646,627 in restitution.

The embezzlement was first flagged by an investigator for American Express, who called the archdiocese and asked why they were writing checks to casinos. At least $370,000 of the embezzled money went for cash advances and purchases at casinos in Atlantic City, Las Vegas and Key West, Mexico and the Bahamas. Guzzardi, according to the prosecutor, also used the embezzled money to pay down her mortgage, and take family vacations to Hawaii, San Francisco and the Bahamas. Guzzardi also wrote out big checks payable to herself. Even though she and her husband had good jobs and no children, the prosecutor said.

"She had plenty of money," said Assistant District Attorney Lisa Caulfield. She also had plenty of trust from her employer Guzzardi had worked for the archdiocese since she was 20. She kept getting promoted until she finally reached the rank of CFO in 2011, with an annual salary of $124,000.

"She likes nice things,"Caulfield told the judge. Guzzardi spent church money on "ridiculous luxuries," such as $5,000 worth of shoes and a Christian Dior dress while vacationing in Las Vegas. 

"She literally parties for seven years on somebody else's dime," the prosecutor told the judge. Caulfield rejected the defense argument that the 2005 grand jury report prompted Guzzardi to go on a spending binge fueled by embezzled money.

Guzzardi stole $39,000 before the 2005 grand jury report ever came out, Caulfield told the judge. The defense argument that the grand jury made her do it was "a convenient excuse," the prosecutor said, "an excuse made up now to justify what she's been doing for seven years."

When someone "steals money when you don't need it, that is plain greed," Caulfield said, while asking for a sentence of 5 1/2 to 11 years, plus 10 years probation.

The courtroom was packed with some 36 friends and family members of Guzzardi, who took turns standing up in court to show support. They included Guzzardi's husband, sister, an uncle and aunt, brothers-in-law, cousins, nieces, nephews and friends.

Richard Sockriter, the addictions counselor who has been seeing Guzzardi once a week for the past year said her pathological gambling "affects all aspects of a person's life."

A tearful Guzzardi told the judge she had been "humbled" in the past year, after her crimes had been exposed, and in the words of her lawyer, "her name and face was plastered all over the news." Guzzardi apologized to the archdiocese for her crimes, and to her friends and family for the "terrrible and selfish way" she had behaved. 

"I let them down," she said of her supporters. "My heart aches each and every day" for the pain she had inflicted on friends and family, she said. "I was out of control." She promised to make full restitution. "I'll pay to make up for the lies ... I have a repentant heart."

Defense lawyer Busico told the judge his client had just expressed "true remorse." He then drew a parallel with other archdiocese employees.

"What a difference it would make," he said, if other people at the archdiocese "had that kind of remorse, and came forward to admit their complicity," instead of doing what they usually do, "ask for a transfer."

Not only did his client confess her guilt, and help the district attorney's office in its investigation, Busico said, but on two occasions, Guzzardi "came forward at her own peril" to tell investigators about the inner workings of the archdiocese.

Guzzardi told investigators the how, when and why priests were transferred, her lawyer said. She also told investigators the true financial picture of the archdiocese over the last several years, Busico told the judge. He referred to the archdiocese's money, and "who knew where it went."

"The Commonwealth chose not to use it," Busico said of the information offered by Guzzardi. [When asked about Guzzardi's meetings with the district attorney's office, prosecutor Caulfield said she was aware of two meetings, but as far as specifics, she did not know what Busico was talking about.]

Busico also asserted that no schools or parishes had to be closed because of the crimes his client had committed. "They were insured," Busico said of the archdiocese. "If the loss of money is the biggest problem in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, what a horrible place it must be."

He amplified on an argument made in his sentencing memo. "She was involved with an institution that she felt betrayed by," he told the judge. 

After the judge imposed sentence, Busico asked for a stay so Guzzardi could get her life in order before going to jail. But the judge said that Guzzardi had been instructed to come to court today prepared for the imposition of sentence.

And then while her friends and family cried, Guzzardi was led away by a female sheriff's deputy.

Afterwards, Busico said he was "grateful that the judge had recognized that his client was sincere and remorseful," and gave Guzzardi less time than the Commonwealth asked for. "And we're dissapointed that nobody from the archdiocese showed up to express forgiveness."


  1. I have no idea about different laws but in my opinion, do the tax fraud lawyers should agree that the suspect should only in probation after all the damages that the suspect have been made? Or the suspect should have been sentenced for more than 7 years? What do you think?

  2. Some fraud lawyers thought of this as his fate. The law says it all and I guess they've presented witnesses to prove him guilty.


Thoughtful commentary welcome. Trolling, harassing, and defaming not welcome. Consistent with 47 U.S.C. 230, we have the right to delete without warning any comments we believe are obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.