Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Former Innovate Mississippi CFO to serve four years in prison. (Updated)

Update: Post is updated with video of friends and family speaking in support of Klauser. 

The former CFO of Innovate Mississippi is going to prison after she admitted stealing $598,143 from her former employer.  Madison County Circuit Judge Steve Ratcliff sentenced Tonya Klauser to serve ten years in prison after she pleaded guilty to two counts of false pretenses in June.  However, Judge Ratcliff suspended six years of the sentence.

Klauser enters the courtroom

A visibly upset Tonya Klauser told the court "I committed a terrible crime. I embezzled a large amount of money.  I let greed take over my life." Her former boss,  Innovate Mississippi CEO Tony Jeff, asked Judge Ratcliff to sentence her to pay financial restitution instead of going to prison.  Her attorney, Matt Eichelberger, asked the court to sentence her to two five year terms of house arrest for each offense and make them run consecutively. However,  District Attorney Michael Guest told the court that the embezzlement was part of a "continuing pattern of criminal behavior" that continued for three years (10:00).  He said that the embezzlement was the second-largest embezzlement case in Madison County and asked the Judge to take those facts under consideration. 



Several friends of Klauser stood up at the podium and asked the court to show mercy while thirteen letters pleading for leniency were submitted as well.  The letters are posted below.  

A somber Judge Ratcliff told the fallen CFO (13:30):

 I believe that (you are remorseful). I don't think there is any question about it.  (long pause) But there are alot of things I have to consider and you know that. ....  The fact that you took over half a million dollars and close to $600,000 and this is over a period of several years and I don't know what point it stopped but it appears it stopped at the time you got caught.  Money is a powerful thing... Money can change people.  There is a good bit of spiritual quotations here but you know the love of money, well, I've seen it too much and it can change people.  I do believe that you are remorseful.  I will say that.  I think you have accepted responsibility.  You've asked me and several people have asked me to be compassionate and to be merciful.  I would hope that people know I try to be that every day.  My heart goes out to you and to the victims....  I said this before. It's not me giving you anything.  Quite frankly you've earned it and you know it and I'm not telling you anything you don't know.  But today, like Mr. Eichelberger said,  it's my job to make that decision.  I can tell you alot of times I don't like making that decision but I know it's what I have to do.  I look into my heart every day, every day.  Like I said, these are all case by case and never cookie cutter but after taking everything into consideration.... you will serve ten years in the Department of Corrections but will be released after you've served four....
Klauser pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of embezzlement in 2014 after her embezzlement at Innovate Mississippi was discovered.  U.S. District Judge Tom Lee sentenced her a year later to serve all of thirty days in prison, two months in a halfway house, and then six months under house arrest.  Earlier post.

There was no other media at the sentencing today. 






Kingfish note: She will not serve four years in prison.  Since her crime is considered to be "non-violent", she will probably serve only 25% of her sentence.  Since she has been incarcerated since she pleaded guilty in June, she will  get credit for time served.  That means she is probably home by Independence Day next year. 






29 comments:

Anonymous said...

Doesn't make any sense to send someone to prison for a crime like this. Make them pay restitution and make everyone whole again x5, but there's no logical reason for us to pay to incarcerate her. She's not a threat to public safety, and locking her up just for punishment makes it less likely she will be able to earn money to repay everyone. I also don't want to pay $15K/year to keep her in state custody.

Anonymous said...

6:11- Disagree with you. 4 years is too little time. Many people never pay back the restitution they owe (Scott Walker) so letting them get off without any jail time is not even a slap on the wrist. They say that crime doesn't pay but white collar crime does indeed.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Kingfish, for blacking out the daughter's names in this. They don't deserve any additional grief than what their mother's actions will no doubt give them anyway.

Anonymous said...

This is a fair sentence. Judge Ratliff is a reasonable judge. If Madison is going to be tough on crime, it must send a consistent message and the Judge did.

Anonymous said...

Exactly where do you think the criminal would get the money to pay back what she stole? With a criminal history like hers no one but Jackson would hire her and she is white so that is out.
Maybe if she was friends of Ben Allen she could go back to her old job.

Anonymous said...

The prison sentence is tough, but the real hammer is the proctologist exam and death by a million cuts that the IRS is going to put her and anyone who is close to through. Not belittling the crime but the IRS pressure is relentless and it will feel at times that it will never go away.
That is one aspect of the punishment of this type crime that doesn't make headlines and often the criminal doesn't even realize the the consequences of their crime will be longer and more debilitating than they think.

Anonymous said...

No one would hire but Jackson....

She could also be an independent contractor for one of our elected Republican politicians..She would definitely make enough to make reasonable payments on her restition.

Anonymous said...

A petty their gets more time than this, she's a white girl so he let her off easy. There a lot of mothers who stole on a fraction of this in order to feed their kids, who are serving 3 times what she got.

Anonymous said...

I was hoping the judge would read a poem.

Anonymous said...

No one would hire but Jackson....

She could also be an independent contractor for one of our elected Republican politicians..She would definitely make enough to make reasonable payments on her restition.

Anonymous said...

Thieving biotch got off easy. Lets see what happens in Lowndes County Friday morning at 10:00 am. I really hope that spoiled brat gets a come to Jesus sentence.

Anonymous said...

So what did she spend all that cash on? Getting her Spa day on and her nails done?

Anonymous said...

Really? Some of you people are ridiculous. Rankin county sent me to prison for 5 years for credit card fraud, not even $200. And you say to let her off just like that for over half a million dollars? A lot of you people are the real criminals and should be in MDOC custody yourselves.

Anonymous said...

Nobody goes to jail over $200 dollars.... Unless you are poor, a minority or pissed off any number of egomaniacs in this state.

Seriously, your problem was stealing a couple hundred dollars from the credit card industry. That can't be tolerated. Steal hundreds of thousands from a non profit, charity, youth softball league, political campaign or the state and you will get a couple years plus community service.

Anonymous said...

she stole about 600, 000$ over the course of about 3 years. chances of her replaying that are about like winning the powerball lottery. good luck with that one. she spend every bit of it. your victim will never see a nickel . a perfect world does not exist......not even in madison county.

Anonymous said...

I bet the crazy old woman gets at least 2 net.

Anonymous said...

She should have thought bigger.

Like KIOR.

Or Kemper.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Taggert's plea for mercy says that he recognizes that a sentence to prison would "send a message", but went on to suggest that it would be better for her to stay employed and 'pay back' the money.

1) Assuming that she lives a normal lifespan she will not pay back enough of this money to cover the interest, much less anything significant of the $600k she stole.

2) More importantly, using Mr. Taggart's words - NOT sentencing her to prison will send a message. The same message that we constantly bitch about the criminals in Hinds County with the sentences the thugs here receive for theft, killing and all in-between. Not sentencing her to a reasonable prison term tells all those working for government (yes, Innovate MS is a government funded entity, despite their denials) that they can steal all they want, live a good life, and not worry about being sent up river.

Thanks Mr. Taggart, but next time keep a better eye on your employee rather than suggest that because her family and your family are friends they should be excused for this gross action.

Anonymous said...

Nobody goes to jail over $200 dollars.... Unless you are poor, a minority or pissed off any number of egomaniacs in this state. 

Seriously, your problem was stealing a couple hundred dollars from the credit card industry. That can't be tolerated.


Another reason why Mississippi is behind in times and will never truly prosper. Right is right and wrong is wrong however you look at it. Why should a poor person be sentenced to a more stiff punishment than a rich person? Justice for all my ass

Anonymous said...

Isn't her husband Billy Klauser, Chief Economic Development Officer at MDA? How does $600k of embezzled money come into your home and you not be aware of it, especially if you're employed in any kind of financial role?

Anonymous said...

How did she get caught?

Sign me up! said...

If I could steal over a half million dollars and be free. Y July, I'd gladly do it!

Anonymous said...

So if Billy's the hubby then didn't he used to be with the State Department of Revenue as the Director of Income Tax?

If so, he might have been easily missed how $600,000 unearned (and likely undeclared and untaxed) dollars could help raise his family's standard of living. If that 600 large was declared on the family taxes then there are some different questions that ought to be asked.

Anonymous said...

"she will probably get credit for time served"

As a matter of law, anyone serving pretrial/presentencing time for any offense receives credit for the time anyone serves.

Anonymous said...

Ok, so even if she might not be able to repay everyone, she has a lot better chance of making a dent in it working with garnished wages rather than sitting in a prison bed at taxpayer expense.

Kingfish said...

Earlier that morning, Judge Ratcliff sentenced a black woman for receiving stolen property. The stolen property was a car. She had several other pending charges against her in other jurisdictions such as shoplifting and contempt of court (Probably for failure to appear). She appeared with her lawyer. She was a hood rat of sorts. None of the beautiful people were there to testify on her behalf. No one from a church showed up to be for mercy for her. Just a garden variety petty criminal. Judge sentenced her to serve ten years in prison but suspended several years of the sentence. That was for a stolen car. It could've been worth only a few thousand dollars or it could've been a Benz. I can only imagine the comments that would've been made if I had covered her case. The victim probably got the car back.


Ms. Klauser stole around $600,000 over three years. Tell me the difference between the two cases and why one should go to prison while the other one should go home?

Anonymous said...

>>>Tell me the difference between the two cases and why one should go to prison while the other one should go home?<<<

Because middle aged white people with university diplomas, families, and professional careers are more like the prosecutors who prosecute them and the judges who sentence them than the average car thief is? Mulligans ensue.

Anonymous said...

to 11:34am ..... people who get their wages garnished simply quit their job. you didnt know that???? now you know.

Anonymous said...

The sentence is appropriate. Is it possible that a crime like this could be hidden from one's spouse? That is so unlikely that this is a farce. Wasn't her husband at the time this crime,occurred, head of finance for Mississippi development authority. Didn't that agency partially fund the company where she worked? where was the oversight for Mississippi development's funds?Shouldn't he have been watching it? How could he not know? Why was he moved out of his former position and promoted at that agency? There are a lot of questions. Where are the answers? Seems a little fishy Kingfish.

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