Appeals judge rejects VFW theft appeal
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TOLEDO - A three-judge panel has rejected a local woman's appeal of her sentence as "frivolous" after she was convicted of helping to steal $220,000 from the Fremont VFW.

Ohio 6th District Court of Appeals Judges Mark Pietrykowski, Thomas Osowik and Christine Mayle on Friday affirmed the Sandusky County Common Pleas Court's decision to sentence Jodi Martin, 43, to 12 months in prison after she pleaded guilty to felony theft from the VFW over a five-year period while working as a manager of the post's canteen.

In May 2017, Sandusky County Assistant Prosecutor Mark Mulligan sought 60 days in jail for Martin as part of her plea, but Sandusky County Pleas Court Judge John Dewey said he was "troubled" and "offended" by Martin's actions and gave her the maximum sentence of 12 months for her plea to a fifth-degree felony.

"I am not a member of the VFW, and I didn't serve in the military, but I am personally offended myself at this amount of money that comes up missing," Dewey said before sentencing Martin last May.

Martin's appeals attorney, Brett Klimkowsky, filed a brief with the 6th District Court of Appeals in Toledo to withdraw as Martin's appeals attorney, effectively dropping Martin's appeal.

As part of her sentencing, Martin was ordered to pay $175,000 in restitution to the VFW.

Andrea Valdez, 40, of Fremont, also was found guilty of participating in the theft from the VFW's gambling business from 2010 to 2014 and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

The more than $220,000 that was stolen from the VFW had been designated for community Little League scholarships and scholarships for local graduating seniors.

As part of her sentence, Valdez was ordered to pay $75,000 in restitution.

Although the women were ordered to pay restitution, Craig Schwartz, the VFW post's quartermaster, said he does not expect to see much, if any, of the money again.

"It's going to be tough to get that money back," Schwartz last May. "But justice was served."

Because Martin accepted a plea deal, the three-judge panel said the "appellant understood the nature of her guilty plea and answered affirmatively when advised of each of her constitutional rights she would be forfeiting by not proceeding to trial," the decision said.

The judges also stated that Martin knew the court was not bound by the 60-day jail sentence the prosecutor proposed and could face the maximum sentenced of 12 months, which Dewey gave Martin at her sentencing on May 22, 2017.

"We agree with counsel and find no error in the plea before the trial court," the judges opined. "The motion of counsel for appellant requesting to withdraw as counsel is granted, and this appeal is found to be wholly frivolous."


Source: The News Messenger