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Former court clerk who stole from Merrillville gets 30-month prison term

A Merrillville woman who stole more than $175,000 from the town of Merrillville will spend two and a half years in prison.

Virlissa Crenshaw, who pleaded guilty in 2012 to stealing $176,763 from the town and lying on her income tax return, cried as she apologized at her sentencing hearing Monday morning in U.S. District Court in Hammond.

“I’m so sorry,” she said repeatedly through her tears.

Crenshaw used her position as a clerk for the Merrillville Town Court to steal the money from bond payments made by defendants who had been arrested on misdemeanor charges, such as driving while intoxicated or battery.

She then stole from other defendants’ bond payments to pay back some of those she had stolen from.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Bell argued that Crenshaw should see prison time for a number of reasons, including that her crime took place since at least 2008 until she was caught in 2012.

“This was not a one-time event,” he said.

She also had been caught stealing $18,000 of book rental and gym fees from her previous employer, the School City of East Chicago, about 10 years ago, a case that was never charged.

Also, at the time, the town used bond payment receipts to create criminal cases in the court records, many cases were never officially charged because their bonds were never properly recorded. And now, some never will be charged, because statutes of limitation have expired.

Bell also said Crenshaw used the money to gamble.

“You stole from the taxpayers to gamble?” U.S. District Judge James T. Moody asked Crenshaw, appearing shocked.

“Yes sir,” she responded.

“Wow.”

Her attorney, Jerry Flynn, had argued in a sentencing memorandum that Crenshaw, 43, suffers from numerous serious health problems and that she is one of the unhealthiest people he knows of at her age.

He announced at the hearing that she recently discovered she must undergo a surgery within a few weeks.

He had asked for a sentence of home confinement and probation, but Moody said that was just not enough and instead granted Bell’s request for 30 months. He also ordered her to pay $176,763 in restitution to Merrillville.



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