In the conclusion of a case that has stretched almost two and a half years, Judge Fred S. Hecker sentenced a Sykesville woman to serve 18 months of jail time after she stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from a local nonprofit through fraudulent bookkeeping.
“If this case illustrates anything — and this case illustrates many things — it’s that theft is not a victimless crime,” Hecker said.
On Oct. 19, Robbin Davlin, 52, of the 800 block of Cornwall Court, pleaded guilty to one count of theft scheme exceeding $100,000. During Thursday’s hearing, Hecker sentenced her to 10 years of incarceration, with all but 18 months suspended, to be served in the Carroll County Detention Center. Davlin will also be on probation for five years following her release.
Davlin will also be required to pay $1,000 per month in restitution to Milestone Media Group and nonprofit organization, Caring Communities, from which she stole an excess of $380,000 over a period of approximately nine years.
“I am truly remorseful, embarrassed and ashamed,” Davlin said as she addressed the court prior to sentencing.
Davlin said she has been called many names since the theft came to light, and said, “I have called myself each and every one of those names and more.”
Supporters of both the defense and the prosecution filled five rows on each side of the courthouse. At one point in the hearing, Hecker reproached the crowd after an outburst as the arguments became heated.
Davlin was hired as a bookkeeper in 2006 for Milestone Media Group Caring Communities, both of which are owned by Jay and Mona Freedman. She was terminated in April 2015 after her employers discovered a financial impropriety of approximately $10,000.
This was only a small portion of the betrayal, the Freedmans testified in victim impact statements during Thursday’s hearing.
Jay Freedman detailed how he and his wife spent years working overtime while watching their business struggle.
The impact of spending hundreds of hours combing through thousands of fraudulent transactions was grueling and further took away from the resources available to his business and his nonprofit that serves disabled individuals.
“Clearly these actions were not a mistake,” he said. “Nine years is plenty of time to understand the ramifications of her actions.”
Just four days before they began discovering Davlin’s improprieties, the Freedmans were forced to sell their home of 20 years and move into a single room in their daughter’s home because of the pileup of debt and loans incurred through trying to keep their business and nonprofit afloat.
“I’m 57 and living like a teenager,” Jay Freedman said of starting over.
That Davlin could be privy to the couple’s economic struggles and continue to steal from them left her disgusted disgusted and betrayed, Mona Freedman said.
“She could see our lives disintegrate,” she said. “She was our bookkeeper, confidant and friend.”
Melissa Hockensmith, economic crimes supervisor for the Carroll County State’s Attorney’s Office, said that Davlin’s theft averaged to $42,000 per year of tax-free income.
“Davlin’s children grew up benefiting from all of the things the Freedman’s children should have had,” she said.
One point of contention in the hearing was the amount of restitution to be paid per month. The state argued for, and was ultimately granted, a stipulation that Davlin pay a minimum $1,000 per month.
Hecker estimated that at that rate it would take 17.5 years for Davlin to complete the restitution payments. At the $500 per month rate that the defense requested, the time would have stretched to approximately 35 years.
“There are no winners in this case, and I cannot fix this,” Hecker said.
Members of Davlin’s family and her close friends also spoke at the hearing, including her daughter, who implored Hecker not to incarcerate Davlin because she would miss the birth of her grandchild. A common theme of the testimony was that loved ones were shocked to learn of the crimes because they knew Davlin as a kind and nurturing person.
“I don’t condone what Robbin did, but I understand how it happened,” said friend Donna Harrigan. “I do believe she realizes the effect she’s had.”
Prior to sentencing, the defense asked Hecker to consider a recent diagnosis of compulsive spending and other elements of mental illness which had gone undiagnosed and untreated and contributed to Davlin’s behavior.
“There are cases of greed and there are cases of mental disorder,” Davlin’s attorney James Barrett said.
Davlin’s therapist Dr. Jean Pollack testified that the purchase of items, like other addiction behaviors, would temporarily soothe an anxious or depressed mood, but ultimately created a spiral from which Davlin was unable to recover.
According to Pollack’s testimony, Davlin began therapy with her last June and participates in a support group for people with addictive behaviors.