HAMMOND — A federal judge sentenced a Hobart woman to 57 months in prison Wednesday for embezzling more than $846,000 from a Hammond trucking firm.
Lucy Owens, 41, couldn’t convince U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Van Bokkelen or a federal prison psychiatrist she was mentally incompetent to be tried for her theft or that she should be given probation and treatment for personality disorders rather than locked up.
The judge ordered Owens to pay restitution to her victim, James Djuric, who said in a victim impact statement read by a family member that Owens nearly ruined him financially and alienated a daughter, who became friends with and defended Owens, when the embezzlement was first discovered.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Abizer Zanzi acknowledged in court there is scant chance of recovering the money, which Owens took — hundreds of dollars daily — and spent on restaurants, traveled around the country with her family several times and enjoyed lavish shopping sprees, including $20,000 on clothing and jewelry.
Owens offered no apology other than for the inconvenience of everyone having to come to court for her five day trial in May 2018.
Her lawyer, Claudia Traficante, told the court Owens is delusional and ran out of her psychiatric medicines two weeks ago.
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Traficante asked the court to delay sentencing, but Owens said she wanted to go forward and so did the judge, who concluded Owens was sane when she was stealing the money and her mental issues appear to be Owens deluding herself.
Federal prosecutors said Owens used her position as a bookkeeper for Djuric Trucking Co. of Hammond to daily tap the company’s bank account between January 2010 and March 2015. Her fraud pushed the company, which employs 75, to the brink of bankruptcy.
Prosecutors said she covered up her crime by generating false financial records. She took the witness stand during her trial last year to claim she did nothing wrong. The judge said her lies during testimony resulted in her getting a longer prison term.
The case took an unexpected turn last spring when Owens told two mental health specialists she hired that she had been hearing imaginary voices.
While the judge said he didn’t detect any signs Owens was mentally incompetent at trial — nor did anyone raise a sanity defense for her until after her conviction — he nevertheless ordered her to federal prison to be examined.
The judge said the federal psychiatrist concluded Owens was sane and her claim of hearing voices wasn’t credible.