AUBURN – A local woman who claimed she was cheated out of the thousands of dollars she embezzled from Dunkin’ Donuts by an Internet scam was sentenced Wednesday to serve six years in prison.

Linda Roberts, 52, told police she stole $32,467 from a downtown Dunkin’ Donuts, where she worked as a manager, in hopes of parlaying the hot cash into a cool fortune through an overseas contact she met online. One of her duties as manager was to make daily cash deposits at a bank.

Her online contact was someone claiming to be a woman who inherited 10 million British pounds from her late husband’s estate. The contact said her late husband’s family was interfering with her collection of her inheritance and that she suffered from a debilitating illness.

The e-mailer asked that Roberts send money to help collect the inheritance. In return, Roberts was promised 30 percent, or 3 million pounds. Over time, several people involved in the scam contacted Roberts by e-mail, telephone and letters, her attorney, Jason Ranger, wrote in court papers.

She first denied she stole the money but later admitted her actions to police. She handed officers a check to reimburse the Dunkin’ Donuts owner, saying she and her husband had refinanced their home to come up with the money.

The check bounced. It turned out they hadn’t refinanced after all.

Roberts pleaded guilty last fall to charges of theft and negotiating a worthless instrument.

Assistant District Attorney Richard Beauchesne said Wednesday in Androscoggin County Superior Court that Roberts should serve 10 years in prison. He said Roberts had been given plenty of chances for redemption, but squandered them, including her graduation from drug court and a recent five-year suspended sentence.

“We’re reluctantly throwing up our hands. What else is there to do?” he asked. “This woman has been taking other people’s money for 25 years. Enough is enough.”

Beauchesne recited Roberts’ lengthy criminal record. It includes two felony theft convictions and one conviction of theft by unauthorized taking. She also had been convicted of three counts of negotiating a worthless instrument and forgery.

He said there was no evidence to support Roberts’ claim that she sent the stolen money to London.

Ranger, who called his client “a very intelligent individual,” said she was “duped and swindled” by the scam. He said she hoped to be able to repay the money she stole with money from the British e-mailer.

Roberts told the judge: “I was wrong and I was very ashamed of myself.” She said she suffered from an addiction that drove her to repeated acts of stealing. She said she needed therapy to treat it.

“Of all the crimes I ever committed, I never really understood what the victim felt, until now,” she said.

She also said she had found religion, something that’s helped her to come to terms with her past actions.

Justice Donald Marden said he was reluctant to send her to prison where she’d be less likely to earn money to reimburse the Dunkin’ Donuts owner. “Therein lies the Catch-22,” he said. “It is the victim who suffers twice.”

Her attempt to repay the stolen money by handing police a bad check “is just beyond the pale,” he said.

He called her criminal history “very worrisome.”

Marden sentenced her to five years in prison on the theft charge followed by 10 years with all but one year suspended on the second charge, plus four years of probation.

He also ordered a psychiatric evaluation “to address this history of theft, fraud and deceit.”



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