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U.S. Court of Appeals upholds West Leyden woman’s $1 million embezzlement conviction

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The U.S. Court of Appeals has upheld the conviction and sentence of a West Leyden woman who embezzled more than $1 million from the town of Lewis and two dairy cooperatives.

Melissa L. Wagner-Dano was sentenced in October 2009 in U.S. District Court, Syracuse, to 6 years in prison and ordered to pay more than $1 million in restitution on a charge of wire fraud, to which she pleaded guilty in April 2009. She admitted to embezzling funds from January 2007 through November 2009 from the town, the Oneida-Lewis Dairy Cooperative and the Boonville Farm Cooperative while working as a bookkeeper for each.

She appealed the decision in November 2009 to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, New York City, which in a mandate issued Tuesday ruled the sentence was both correct and reasonable.

Ms. Wagner-Dano had contended that district court erred when sentencing her by failing to fully consider objections she made to information contained in a presentence report, including a discrepancy between the amounts she admitted stealing and the amounts contained in the report and a disagreement as to how some of the money allegedly was spent. Some changes were made in the report after Ms. Wagner-Dano objected, but some of the disputed information remained.

The appellate court noted that at the time of sentencing, Ms. Wagner-Dano’s attorney was asked whether there were any objections to the presentence report and he told the court there were no additional objections other than the ones already noted in an addendum to the report he submitted. After sentencing was pronounced, the attorney likewise raised no objection to it, according to the appellate court’s ruling. It also ruled that the judge had pronounced a sentence that was within federal sentencing guidelines.

“We see nothing in this record to indicate that the district court imposed an unacceptably harsh sentence here,” the appellate court concluded in affirming the decision.

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