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Wednesday, February 21, 2001

Unity House
embezzler gets
21 months, must
repay $74,000

Linda Carpenter was fired
from her job as executive
secretary in '95

By Mary Adamski

A former Unity House executive secretary has been sentenced to 21 months' imprisonment and ordered to repay nearly $74,000 that she stole from the nonprofit organization.

Linda Carpenter, 49, had pleaded guilty to 65 counts of embezzlement, each charge reflecting a check she cashed between 1991 and 1995.

Comments during her sentencing hearing yesterday gave indications that federal investigators had sought her cooperation in aiming for bigger targets in Unity House. The organization was founded by the late Art Rutledge to benefit members of Teamsters and hotel workers unions. His son, Tony Rutledge, now heads the organization, which has $70 million in assets.

Carpenter was fired in 1995 after Unity House officials discovered thefts totaling $54,000 from one bank account. The agency did not seek criminal charges, and she has repaid that amount.

U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway also sentenced Carpenter to five years' supervised release after her prison time in a mainland institution and a special assessment of $3,250, or $50 for each charge. The 21 months and five years' probation was the sentence for each count, to run concurrently.

The judge said the fact that Carpenter already repaid some of the stolen money was a factor in her decision to impose a sentence from the "low end" of possible penalties.

Mollway said the pre-sentencing report from the U.S. attorney's office said that Carpenter "was almost successful in avoiding her own indictment and did prevent the government from indicting Mr. Rodriguez."

Former Unity House Executive Director Roderick "Roddy" Rodriguez was indicted in July on wire fraud and income tax evasion charges for allegedly trying to defraud Unity House. He committed suicide Aug. 8 after failing to appear for arraignment, two days before Carpenter was indicted by a federal grand jury.

When Carpenter pleaded guilty in October, she told the court that she had shared the money with an officer of Unity House. But she declined to identify him.

Her attorney, Stuart Fujioka, said the prosecutor's pre-sentencing report "makes assumptions that had she provided information, there would have been other charges against Roddy Rodriguez."

Fujioka said the embezzlement occurred during a time when Carpenter was abusing drugs. After she was discovered and fired, she "stopped cold turkey. She picked herself up and got another job," he said, but has subsequently lost it.

"She's beaten, broken, humiliated," said Fujioka. "Nevertheless, she has stayed off drugs; she hasn't re-offended."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Marshall Silverberg argued that Carpenter was not rehabilitated, as Fujioka claimed. "She lied to us ... up to the day before the indictment. If she had told Unity House, 'I owe you more,' or came to the government and said, 'Now I'm coming clean,' that would reflect a lower sentence."

Silverberg told the judge that investigators had asked Carpenter whether Tony Rutledge or Rodriguez knew about the theft. "She denied it up to the day before her indictment."

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