Embezzlement ran in the family

The ex-wife of a convicted embezzler has admitted to stealing more than $20,000 from a local dental office.

Cassandra Sam on Monday pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree theft and two counts of second-degree theft before Jackson County Circuit Court Judge William Purdy.

Sam, 36, embezzled the money over a period of several years from her previous employer, Dr. Todd Holton. She received 64 hours of community service and 18 months' probation and was ordered to pay more than $20,000 in restitution to the dentist, said Senior Deputy District Attorney Tim Barnack.

Sam initially blamed other employees for the missing cash, Barnack said.

"She was pointing her finger at everyone else, but it was her," he said.

It was Sam who helped Barnack successfully prosecute Wesley Pettegrew, 38, for stealing from the now-closed Medford sporting goods store, McKenzie Outfitters, in 2004, he said.

"She assisted me in the prosecution of her husband, and the whole time she was stealing from the dental office," said Barnack.

"Maybe they were learning how to do it from each other," he added.

Pettegrew pleaded guilty in July 2004 to six separate charges for his actions after police found canoes, boots, sunglasses and other goods stored at their home, Barnack said.

"Everything you could think of that might be at a sporting goods store, he had in his garage and his shed," said Barnack.

Pettegrew was sentenced to 19 months in jail and paid more than $30,000 in restitution, he said.

Sam followed in the path of her former husband when she opted to plead guilty to the theft charges rather than face a jury trial, he said.

Sam wept in court and said just one word before hearing her sentence, Barnack said.

"She looked over at the Holtons and said, 'Sorry,' " he said.

Sam's sentence did not include jail time as it was her first offense, Barnack said. But pleading guilty to the felony thefts puts her in line for prison time if she offends again, he added.

"The next time she commits a theft, she goes to the penitentiary," he said.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.

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