LIMA — Heather O’Connor was sentenced Thursday morning to five years of probation for stealing thousands of dollars from a pair of programs affiliated with Shawnee schools.
O’Connor will use that time on probation to earn the more than $50,000 she was ordered to repay the two school organizations.
The 45-year-old O’Connor tearfully apologized to school officials, students, staff and family members during her sentencing hearing. Allen County Common Pleas Judge David Cheney ordered the former treasurer of the Shawnee Middle School Parent Teacher Committee to reimburse $42,141 to the PTC and an additional $9,277 to the Little Indians volleyball booster club. She was also sentenced to 40 hours of community service and ordered to maintain employment.
“I used money that did not belong to me, and before I knew it my actions had snowballed into something I couldn’t overcome,” O’Connor told Cheney. “I know there are consequences for my actions. I am deeply, deeply sorry and am ready to begin righting my wrongs. This event doesn’t define who I am as a whole.”
Her attorney, Robert Grzybowski, said O’Connor accepted responsibility for her actions immediately when confronted and made a partial restitution payment to the school on her own. Grzybowski said his client “has been embarrassed and humiliated, and she’s embarrassed and humiliated her family” through her actions.
O’Connor was the target of a secret indictment handed down by an Allen County grand jury in July charging her with four counts of second-degree felony charges of grand theft and a single county of tampering with records, a first-degree misdemeanor. She pleaded guilty in February to a single count of grand theft, a fourth-degree felony, after accepting a negotiated deal with prosecutors.
The middle school’s parent teacher committee, of which O’Connor served as treasurer, raises money to help the school and children pay for various expenses that would not otherwise be available. Detective Jack Miller of the Shawnee Township Police Department said a bill came due associated with a fundraiser that was not paid, alerting school authorities to a possible problem. The bill then was forwarded to the middle school, and school officials discovered insufficient funds within the PTC account.
The woman was interviewed and cooperated with the investigation, Miller told The Lima News when the investigation first got under way in 2016. The offenses for which O’Connor was charged occurred between August 2009 and March 2016, according to court documents.