ELLSWORTH (AP) – An Ellsworth woman was handed a 2-year prison term Wednesday for embezzling an estimated $400,000 to $750,000 from a prominent businessman over a 15-year period.

Superior Court Justice Andrew Mead sentenced Julie Watson, 37, to eight years, with all but 30 months suspended. He also ordered Watson to pay $500,000 in restitution and serve four years on probation after her release from prison.

Watson pleaded guilty in January to stealing the money from Charles Katsiaficas while managing several of his businesses, including the Eagle’s Lodge Motel, Ellsworth Self Storage and a now-defunct travel agency. Watson had worked for Katsiaficas since she graduated from high school in 1984.

Kiki Sawyer, one of Katsiaficas’ daughters, told Mead that when the businesses were struggling financially, Watson blamed Katsiaficas for making too many trips to Wal-Mart and putting too much gasoline in his 14-year-old pickup truck.

All the while, Sawyer said, Watson was spending the stolen money on rented limousines for nights out on the town, all-terrain vehicles, trips to Mexico, Gucci handbags, a bridal gown, a Gucci watch and other lavish expenses.

“She spent (the money) on frivolous things while watching my parents struggle to make ends meet,” Sawyer told Mead.

In a prepared statement that she read to the court, Watson apologized for the thefts.

“I truly loved Charlie,” she said. “I still do and I always will.”

During the sentencing, Katsiaficas sat in the front row of the spectators’ gallery in Hancock County Superior Court, but did not address the judge.

His wife, Lillian Katsiaficas, and another daughter, Mary Katsiaficas Libby, told Mead that Watson does not feel remorse.

“Our finances are in shambles,” Lillian Katsiaficas said. “We’ll not live long enough to be repaid, and she’ll not live long enough to repay it.”

Katsiaficas’ son-in-law, Steve Joy, told Mead that Katsiaficas still has more than $200,000 of credit card debt from Watson’s spending, and had to sell $850,000 in real estate to help put his finances in order.

Watson’ mother and two co-workers appeared at the hearing in Watson’s support.

Watson hugged them over a courtroom railing after the proceeding and wept before being led from the courtroom to begin her sentence.

Watson’s attorney, Daniel Pileggi, had recommended that Watson be sentenced to serve eight months in prison and pay a maximum of $351,000 in restitution. He said the shorter sentence was warranted because Watson has two young children, pleaded guilty and has begun repaying the Katsiaficas family.

Hancock County District Attorney Michael Povich had recommended that Watson serve three years in jail and pay $750,000 in restitution.

AP-ES-07-24-03 0905EDT

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