In matters of trust and betrayal, courts have no consistency

Whose betrayal is greater? A woman who betrayed her best friend? A lawyer who betrayed his clients? A banker and politician who betrayed his customers? An employee who betrayed his employer? A monsignor who betrayed his flock?

All held positions of trust. All blamed their betrayal on gambling addiction. All stole large amounts. Three received prison sentences, while two basically walked.

Before Monsignor Kevin McAuliffe was sentenced to 37 months in prison for stealing $650,000 from money meant for the Catholic Church, I wrote he should be treated like any other thief. I still believe that and believe the sentence he received was fair.

But other gambling addiction cases have been in the Nevada news recently, and there is inconsistency in the sentencing.

The day before McAuliffe was sentenced by U.S. District Judge James Mahan, over in state court, Las Vegas attorney Doug Crawford received the sentence McAuliffe dreamed of getting.

Crawford stole $304,831 from three clients, about half what the monsignor stole.

District Judge Donald Mosley said Crawford could enter a diversion program designed to treat gambling addicts. He won’t spend any time in prison if he pays back the money he stole.

Meanwhile, the same day McAuliffe was sentenced in Las Vegas, up in Reno, Carolyn Sue Causey, who stole $1.5 million from her best friend and boss, was sentenced to 10 years in prison by Washoe County District Judge Brent Adams.

Causey ripped off Pat Schweigert, owner of ERA Realty, where she was the office manager. Causey didn’t pay payroll withholding taxes, wrote fraudulent checks and doctored accounting logs, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported.

Now Schweigert owes the Internal Revenue Service $550,000 and is facing ruin because of her best friend’s uncontrolled compulsions to gamble at a Sparks casino for more than four years.

Last May in Ely, Stephen Marich, a banker and city councilman who stole $3.7 million over 12 years, was sentenced to 78 months by U.S. District Judge Kent Dawson.

McAuliffe’s attorney, Margaret Stanish, had hoped Mahan would pay attention to a U.S. 9th Circuit Court case out of Spokane, Wash. Kevin Ruff stole $644,866 of inventory from his employer, the Sacred Heart Medical Center, and sold it on the Internet. The purchasing manager gambled away $200,000.

When the time came to face a federal judge in 2007, Ruff was first sentenced to 12 months and one day at a halfway house. But after learning that the facility wouldn’t house prisoners, the judge modified the sentence to one day of imprisonment and three years of supervised release, including one year at the halfway house. The prosecution appealed, but the appellate court upheld the District Court judge’s leniency.

Two differences between the cases:

■ Ruff confessed when confronted by hospital bosses. The monsignor lied when questioned by the FBI.

■ Ruff sought counseling before his crime was discovered. The monsignor didn’t.

These sentences are all over the place. The monsignor got 37 months for $650,000, the office manager got 10 years for $1.5 million, and the banker got 78 months for $3.7 million.

The lawyer who stole $304,831 and the purchasing official who stole $644,866 received leniency.

At first I thought it was a difference between the state and federal systems, but that’s not the difference in these five cases.

They were all ordered to pay restitution, but get real, how likely is that to happen? How do they pay restitution without jobs? Thieving gambling addicts aren’t the first hired in today’s world.

What is constant is that each of these people were skilled at betraying those who trusted them and talented at covering up their crimes for years.

I’m still vacillating over whose betrayal would hurt the most — a best friend’s or a spiritual leader’s.

Probably a best friend’s betrayal would be worse. It’s more personal.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call her at (702) 383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/Morrison

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