A Hampstead bookkeeper who admitted in November to stealing close to $1 million from a family-run business in Severna Park was sentenced Tuesday in federal court to three years and nine months in prison.
“This is not a violent crime, but it is a serious offense,” U.S. District Judge Ellen Hollander said as she sentenced Lisa Fore, 48. Fore shed tears along with many family and friends seated behind her.
Fore, who worked for The Cirelli Co. and related businesses, had used company checks to pay her own personal credit card bills and her property tax bills, and forged signatures and created fake bank statements as part of her scheme, according to federal prosecutors and an FBI affidavit.
Fore has a history of mental health issues and will also have to go through a mandatory mental health treatment program, Hollander said.
Cirelli family members expressed no sympathy for a woman who had once been like “family” to them.
John Cirelli, son of owner Charles Cirelli, said he does not think the sentencing was “sufficient for what she did" and is frustrated that there is a continuing disagreement over the exact amount of money Fore stole. When John Cirelli spoke on Fore’s crime in front of Hollander, he said “don’t believe the front she puts on. It’s all a facade.”
Cirelli believes that Fore is only “sorry” that she got caught.
“She still wants to fight over what she stole. She took a huge amount of money from me personally,” John Cirelli said as he exited the courtroom.
Fore embezzled more than $996,193.02 from the Cirelli entities, John Cirelli and Charles Cirelli, according to a news release from the U.S. Justice Department.
Court records show Fore’s scheme began in 2001 and ended in 2018 after John Cirelli and his sister discovered discrepancies on a business American Express card, and Fore was confronted. Fore had admitted her crimes immediately, saying “I did it. I’m guilty,” court documents showed.
Fore was employed at the Cirelli family business for 17 years and managed the payment of bills and invoices of the Cirelli entities. She had used the company money to cover fees for her own needs, including writing checks to pay taxes owed to the federal government and gas bills at her home, court documents showed.
After Fore was confronted in 2018, she sent a text message to one of the Cirelli family members, records show. “Should I be prepared? From what he said are they going to file charges? So I can prepare my kids,” one text message said. “I am so sorry I am sure u hate me as well thank u for being u.”
In November, Fore pleaded guilty to mail fraud and aggravated identity theft.
James Crawford, Fore’s attorney, said in November she described herself as “remorseful” for everything that occurred.
Fore was the only non-family member working for the Cirelli entities, and her arrest was stunning to the family, according to court filings.
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A restitution hearing for the stolen funds is scheduled for April 30. Fore is expected to surrender to authorities May 5.