Stephanie Pater, who directed real estate dealings for Tribune under Sam Zell, issued a tearful apology moments before she was sentenced 9/24 to two years in prison for stealing more than $260,000 from the company.
Pater, 39, visibly shook and occasionally used the lectern in court to balance herself as she expressed shame and embarrassment for defrauding Tribune at a time in 2010 that the business was going through financial difficulties, noted The Chicago Tribune, which Tribune owns.
“I recognize the trust companies have held in me I will never have again,” she said as she clutched a cup of water.
Pater’s attorney sought probation so she could find a job and try to repay Tribune in full. “I am eager to get back to make restitution as long as it takes me to do it,” Pater told U.S. District Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan.
In pleading guilty in June to mail fraud, Pater admitted she stole $264,000 by creating bogus contracts with Tribune that improperly directed commissions from a real estate brokerage business to her company. A former director of real estate for Tribune, she had left the company in 2010 to form her own real estate management business, and Tribune hired her to oversee its real estate holdings for a monthly fee.
In January, a month after she was charged, Pater drew the ire of the judge when she failed to appear for her arraignment three times. She finally surrendered and was held in custody for six days.
Pater apologized Tuesday for her conduct. Her attorney, John Legutki, told the judge that she was hiding in her home in a panic. “Miss Pater went into a catatonic state and didn’t move from her house,” Legutki said.
In asking for a sentence of up to 31/2 years in prison, Assistant U.S. Attorney Rick Young said Pater’s embezzlement was not a simple one-time aberration but a scheme motivated by greed that involved fabricating documents over many months.