By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
ABERDEEN – Tupelo day care operator Florestine Gladney was sentenced Thursday to two years’ probation and repayment of $99,057.97 to the federal agency she embezzled it from.
U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock said she decided to put Gladney on probation, rather than give her 10-16 months of prison time, because Gladney could pay the restitution, and that justice was better served by continuing her work with children.
Aycock also ordered her to complete 200 hours of non-compensated community service.
Gladney, the longtime executive director of Tender Care Learning Center in Tupelo, was indicted April 23, 2009, by a federal grand jury on nine counts that she filed false documents and illegally used Americorps tutoring funds to pay regular employees.
The indictment said she embezzled “more than $20,000” from October 2004 through April 2006, though it didn’t contain an exact figure.
If convicted of all charges, she faced up to 55 years in prison and $2.25 million in fines.
Aycock said she received 124 letters on Gladney’s behalf from people who cared what happened to her.
“I take full responsibility for everything that has happened,” Gladney told the court. “I just didn’t read the guidelines.
“I am truly sorry … so sorry because I worked to hard to show kids from the projects – and I came from the projects – that if you work hard …” her voice broke with emotion and she couldn’t finish the sentence.
Her attorney, Frank Russell of Tupelo, told Aycock that Gladney has been a good, productive citizen and a prime example of someone’s succeeding, if they want to.
He also noted the high school dropout ultimately earned a master’s degree, taught school and served on the Tupelo school board. “Very few Afro-American females have had that opportunity,” he said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Mims said officials with the Corporation for National Community Service, which runs Americorps, agreed with the probation decision.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or firstname.lastname@example.org.