Up to 1 year in jail, restitution ordered for $254,638 theft

| Saturday, June 29, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A former employee at the Burrell Township Wal-Mart store has been ordered to make restitution of more than $250,000 she stole from the retailer in a coupon-for-cash scheme, but it remains to be seen if she will serve time behind bars.

Indiana County President Judge William J. Martin on Friday sentenced Eileen H. Zimmerman, 39, of Graceton, Center Township, to 6 to 12 months in the Indiana County Jail followed by six years of probation after she pleaded guilty in April to a third-degree felony theft charge.

Zimmerman also was ordered to pay a $500 fine and $315.50 in court costs and to make restitution of $254,638.50 in funds stolen from the Wal-Mart store near Blairsville.

Martin said he would delay the effective date of the sentence until July 26 to allow Zimmerman's attorney, Arthur McQuillan of Johnstown, to apply for an alternative intermediate punishment option for his client. McQuillan indicated he would seek approval of house arrest so that Zimmerman can hold on to her current job.

McQuillan presented a letter of support from Zimmerman's employers at the Subway restaurant in Armagh and told the judge, “She's been a valued employee there since her termination from Wal-Mart. Her employers are sticking with her.”

“I don't want to see you lose your job,” Martin told Zimmerman, pointing out that would hamper her ability to make payments toward her obligation to Wal-Mart.

McQuillan said Zimmerman is “extremely remorseful and has every intention of paying this debt off.”

McQuillan told the court his client made an initial payment of $5,750 toward restitution and started additional monthly payments of $150 in May.

According to court documents, Zimmerman was responsible for balancing each day's sales involving coupons at the Wal-Mart store beginning in August 2010.

State police said she brought hundreds of dollars worth of coupons from home that she exchanged for cash over a two-year period.

A $75,000 discrepancy caught the attention of a clearance house that pays Wal-Mart for coupons, prompting store officials to look at surveillance video and reports of its money handlers.

Police said video footage of the store's cash room showed Zimmerman removing coupons from her jacket pocket and placing them on a coupon bin.

Trooper Robert A. Worcester, who arrested Zimmerman in May 2012, stated that she would later separate a large amount of currency on her desk and then “would grab a clipboard, stand up, hold the clipboard over the money, then reach for the money with her left hand and place the money in her left pocket.”

As to Zimmerman's motive for taking the money, McQuillan referred to “underlying circumstances” involving an individual who “is not part of her life anymore.”

Martin observed that Zimmerman had been affected by circumstances that were out of her control. But, he told her, “You used poor judgment in dealing with it.”

Martin noted that vice often is involved in cases where such a large amount of restitution is involved. But, he said, in Zimmerman's case, “Vice is not involved.”

He said he took into account that she had no prior criminal record.

Martin said, if the request for intermediate punishment is approved, he intends to amend the court order setting punishment for Zimmerman without requiring her to appear before him again.

Jeff Himler is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2910 or jhimler@tribweb.com.

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