ABERDEEN – Fifty-eight-year-old Floristine Gladney fought back tears Tuesday as she reluctantly admitted she embezzled federal funds to pay a few of her day care center’s workers.
A former teacher and Tupelo school board member with a master’s degree, Gladney stood before U.S. District Court Judge Sharion Aycock and, at first, said, “I agree substantially” with the charges against her.
Aycock halted the proceeding to allow Gladney to speak with her attorney, Frank Russell of Tupelo.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Mims told the judge he believed Gladney meant that while she wrongly used more than $1,000 to pay employees to perform other day care functions, they also conducted tutoring, which was the sole purpose for the Americorps money.
Aycock said the charge would be modified to reflect that detail.
When Gladney and Russell returned to the podium, the judge asked Gladney, “Are you pleading guilty because you, in fact, are guilty?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Gladney answered emotionally.
With the clarification, she pleaded guilty to one count and faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
A federal grand jury indicted her April 23 on nine counts of illegally using more than $20,000 in Americorps funds at her Tender Care Learning Center in Tupelo.
The illegalities, specified in a Sept. 29 plea agreement, occurred from October 2004 through April 14, 2006.
If she had gone to trial and been convicted on all the counts, she could have received as much as 55 years in prison and a $2.25 million fine.
Gladney remains free on $10,000 bond until she’s sentenced in about two months. Restitution also is possible, and she agrees to cooperate with the U.S. Attorney’s Office about the crime and anyone else involved, Mims said.
After her sentencing, the government is expected to ask that the other eight counts be dismissed.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog, From the Front Row, on NEMS360.com.
Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal