A 64-year-old woman who stole more than $400,000 from her long-time Little Rock employer was sentenced to 22 years in prison — eight years short of the maximum sentence — after a two-day trial.
Shirley Jean Clements of Cabot had been with Refrigeration & Electric Supply Co. at 1222 S. Spring St. for 17 years, handling the family-owned business’ accounts receivable.
But she spent her last five years at the company stealing money daily, prosecutors Lauren Eldridge and Erin Driver told the Pulaski County jury that convicted and sentenced her.
“This was a day-by-day course of action against her employers and fellow employees,” Driver said.
She asked jurors Thursday to consider what the money Clements took could have been used for, like pay raises and retirement benefits. Clements had betrayed people who had trusted her for years, saying that she had gotten away with her thefts for so long because that bond of trust kept the owners from examining her work.
The prosecutor called on jurors to impose the harshest sentence, 30 years in prison, because that penalty would keep Clements behind bars for at least five years, the same amount of time she had spent stealing from the company.
Jurors deliberated about 90 minutes to convict Clements of theft by receiving. The felony charge typically carries a sentence of 20 years, but Clements was eligible for a longer sentence because she has prior convictions for marijuana trafficking. The 22-year term requires that she serve a little more than 3 ½ years before she can quality for parole.
Clements did not testify, and defense attorney Jonathan Lane disputed that prosecutors could prove Clements, and not someone else in the company, was responsible for missing funds.
Police reports show owner Bill Miller reported the theft to Little Rock police in March 2014, about three weeks after an audit showed that $300,000 to $400,000 appeared to have been misappropriated by Clements, at least as far back as March 2009.
Miller told police that once he and company controller Dwana Enderson became suspicious of Clements, they had a monitoring program installed on her computer that documented suspicious activity on her part, court filings show. Clements was arrested in April 2016, about two years after Miller went to police.
Bankruptcy filings show that Clements entered Chapter 7 in March 2015, almost exactly a year after she was fired. She reported on her bankruptcy petition that her gross income had been $78,187 in 2013. She had $49,326 in assets, almost all of that representing her Cabot home. She also claimed $292,375 in debts with $198,375 in unsecured debt.