A former paralegal who was convicted of stealing from several clients at a city law firm will spend at least 3 1/2 years in state prison.
Deborah K. McKissick, 37, of Loyalsock Township, was sentenced Monday in Lycoming County Court by Judge Richard A. Gray on charges including forgery, identity theft, theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property and theft by deception.
While employed by the Elliott B. Weiss and Associates law firm, McKissick signed her own name on checks and deposited the money into her own bank account. She also took personal possession of a vehicle without authorization that was to be turned in for bankruptcy proceedings.
One victim, Silvya Greenabaum, said a lifetime of savings was taken. She said her late husband's investments of $19,000 were drained at the hands of McKissick.
"After he passed away, I had to face all the problems," she said. "He always told me there would be money to fall back on, but needless to say nothing was there."
Greenabaum, who was in the courtroom with family members, said she spent many sleepless nights wondering how to pay her bills. She said she even had to wrangle with the Internal Revenue Service about its request for her to pay taxes on the stolen money.
McKissick also took $10,577 from the credit card account of Scott C. James, another law firm client. McKissick pleaded guilty in April to forgery charges and was found guilty of identity theft for signing her name on courtesy checks James gave her to pay his bills.
McKissick was ordered to pay restitution as part of her sentence.
Peter T. Campana, McKissick's attorney, said Gray should consider a county prison sentence in addition to rehabilitation programs instead of a state prison term.
"She wants to do her time and get back to her children," Campana said.
Before she was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs by a deputy sheriff, McKissick apologized to the Greenabaums and blamed her actions on drug and alcohol abuse.
"I know you trusted me. If I could turn back time I would, but I can't," she said. "I deserve to go to jail and I know that. I don't want to be back here again."