‘At ex-employee’s sentencing, Saks speaks as victim’

Victimization is not solely restricted to individuals affected by various crimes but can be applicable to other stakeholders in the community. Often corporations and stores are highly affected by those who steal and commit fraud. This article speaks to a level of victim that we do not normally consider when we utilize the term ‘victim’, that of a business entity or corporation. Yet retail stores alone lose millions of dollars a day due to theft. Review the New York Times article ‘At ex-employee’s sentencing, Saks speaks as victim’, and post your thoughts of how you feel the statement impacted the judge. Do you feel the sentence was fair and equitable?

NY Times Article ‘At ex-employee’s sentencing, Saks speaks as victim’

Before sentences are handed down in court, victims or their family members are usually given a chance to address the judge. The result is often a heartfelt, personal plea for justice.
But one victim-impact statement delivered in a Manhattan courtroom on Monday was hardly ordinary.
It was a plea from a victim with no shortage of Jimmy Choos or Christian Louboutins, asking a judge to do his part in securing the sanctity of retail America.
”When employees steal from companies, they are not just violating the trust of their employer and damaging the reputation of the company that employs them; they are picking the pockets of all Americans,” Andrea Robins, the director of customer relations for Saks Fifth Avenue, said in court on behalf of the company.
Ms. Robins asked Justice Gregory Carro to impose a prison sentence against Cecille Villacorta, 52, a former sales associate in Saks’s jewelry department, who was convicted in March of third-degree grand larceny and of falsifying business records to improperly increase her commission. Prosecutors suggested a prison sentence of two to six years.
Working at Saks from 2000 to 2006, Ms. Villacorta raked in more than $27 million in sales, the most in the store’s history, according to her lawyer, Joseph Tacopina.
Ms. Robins said that the store thought for years that Ms. Villacorta was an outstanding saleswoman. ”She was lauded and acknowledged throughout the organization for what were believed to be her selling accomplishments, and her achievements were recognized as examples of what professional sales associates could aspire to,” Ms. Robins said.
But Ms. Villacorta reached these heights by dubious means, according to Ms. Robins and prosecutors.
Ms. Villacorta was charged with crediting refunds to her customers’ credit cards, even though they had not returned any merchandise, and with giving customers rebates for gift cards they had never purchased. In all, prosecutors said, Ms. Villacorta credited $1.4 million in improper refunds, but a jury acquitted her of the most serious charge of first-degree grand larceny.
If not for a new computer system that caught Ms. Villacorta’s improper credits, Ms. Robins said, she ”would almost certainly have continued to defraud Saks Fifth Avenue at even greater financial and emotional cost to the company.”
The negative publicity from Ms. Villacorta’s trial injured Saks, Ms. Robins said, adding that the store ”was unable to restore its valued relationships with many of the defendant’s customers.”
”The defendant can only be punished sufficiently through incarceration,” Ms. Robins said.
But Ms. Villacorta was the reason her 3,000-plus customers came to Saks in the first place, Mr. Tacopina told Justice Carro on Monday, echoing the arguments he used during the trial. Her giveaways were but a fraction of what she brought in for the company, Mr. Tacopina said. Ms. Villacorta deserved nothing more than probation, he said, saying that she was in a ”fragile emotional state” and had suffered enough.
”She has lost her career,” he said. ”Her reputation has been ruined.”
If the conviction, which is being appealed, is upheld, Mr. Tacopina said, Ms. Villacorta faced deportation to her native Philippines, ”where she has absolutely no family, no life.”
In explaining the sentence he was about to impose, Justice Carro sounded as if he were delivering a homily. He said Ms. Villacorta had submitted a letter from a Jesuit priest, which discussed what she had done for charity. But there seemed ”to be a business purpose for many of those charitable donations,” Justice Carro said.
And so, Justice Carro told Ms. Villacorta, ”my sentence will reflect the teachings of St. Ignatius,” the founder of the Jesuit order, who preached ”service and humility.”
He sentenced Ms. Villacorta to 90 days in jail (the maximum possible term was seven years in prison) and 100 hours of community service ”dealing with the poor and underprivileged.” She also received five years’ probation and a $96,000 fine.
Ms. Villacorta, who, according to her lawyer, made $400,000 in salary and commission during her last year working at Saks in 2006, left the courtroom on Monday in a jet-black blazer that matched her bangs, and with a smile as bright as her hot-pink lipstick and toenail polish.
”Yes,” she said in response to a reporter’s question, ”I’m very happy.”
Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2009 The New York Times Company.

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