|
|
The Suburbanite
  • Education union worker gets jail time in embezzlement case

  • Eva M. Gutwein, of Jackson Township, was sentenced Monday to six months in jail for stealing roughly $185,000 from a union district office representing public educators in Stark, Wayne and some other counties.

    • email print
  • A Jackson Township woman will spend six months in jail for stealing roughly $185,000 from the East Central Ohio Education Association.
    Eva M. Gutwein, 54, of 5372 Blarney Circle NW, had pleaded guilty in early September to charges of aggravated theft and forgery, both felonies, for swindling funds while she was an administrative assistant at the district office of the Ohio Education Association, also known as the state teacher’s union.
    “I’m truly sorry for what I did,” Gutwein said prior to Monday’s sentencing before Stark County Common Pleas Court Judge Frank Forchione. “... I really did try to take care of it and I know that was wrong.”
    Gutwein was referring to paying back $97,000 before she was contacted by police about fraudulent financial transactions.
    The association represents more than 8,000 members — public educators and school staff as well as retirees —  in Stark, Wayne, Holmes, Carroll, Tuscarawas and Columbiana counties.
    Gutwein had worked at the ECOEA office for about 12 years.
    The thefts occurred between January 2003 to March 28, 2013, according to court records. Gutwein cashed checks from multiple accounts, used Chase and American Express accounts for personal use, and forged and used four checks with an ECOEA account number, the records said.
    Gutwein also forged bank statements and letters without the authority of the banks involved or the IRS, according to court papers.
    ‘SLAP IN THE FACE’
    Forchione noted that Gutwein did not have a prior criminal record. After release from jail, she will be on probation for three years. She also cannot hold a job with financial responsibilities unless approved by the court.
    Forchione also said she must complete 200 hours of community service for the Stark County District Library’s literacy program.
    “Teachers in Stark County work very hard,” the judge said. “They’re underpaid, under-appreciated and at times taken for granted, and your actions are a slap in the face...”
    Hope Konovsky, an assistant Stark County prosecutor, said she believes “it was a very fair and reasonable sentence.”
    She also noted the lack of a prior record as well as the repayment of funds, “which we also almost never see.”
    “I think it is definitely a punishment to her,” Konovsky said of jail. “And she also still has the prison term hanging over her head if she doesn’t follow through with the rest of her probation.”
    Rick Pitinii, Gutwein’s attorney, said it was a difficult case for both sides. “Hopefully she’ll be able to work her way through this.”
    RESTITUTION
    A payment of roughly $88,000 was made to fulfill the restitution owed as part of the $185,000 figure cited in the indictment, Forchione said.
    “I know how bad it was,” said Gutwein, her voice breaking. “... And I ask for time to heal.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Prior to sentencing, Angela Stewart, president of the Plain Township-based East Central Ohio Education Association, lashed out at Gutwein.
    In addition to the $185,000, the group has suffered financially with penalties and other costs totaling tens of thousands of dollars, she said.
    Stewart, the East Central president for about seven years, recommended the maximum sentence — up to three years in prison on each felony.
    Gutwein stole union due money, the group’s only source of revenue, Stewart said. The fraud has been a “huge drain on our ability to serve our members,” she said.
    Gutwein showed no remorse for her actions, Stewart said.
    “Let me be clear,” she said, raising her voice in anger. “This was no accident. It was carefully planned and executed — the only accident was she got caught.”
    Reach Ed at 330-580-8315 or
    ed.balint@cantonrep.com
    On Twitter: @ebalintREP