BANGOR, Maine — The former Vanceboro postmaster told a federal judge Thursday she stole $4,616 in postal money to feed a gambling habit.
Choking back sobs, Joy Gillis, 56, of Danforth told U.S. District Judge John Woodcock she had caused pain and embarrassment to her family, and asked that she serve no jail time.
“My supervisors trusted me, and I abused it,” she said. “Most importantly, I sinned against my God; I let my spending be my god.”
Woodcock sentenced Gillis to three years probation, a $1,000 fine, and ordered her to seek counseling for her gambling and spending addictions, as well as depression.
Gillis, who was a U.S. Postal Service employee for 19 years, confessed to diverting money spent on stamps and money orders at the Vanceboro Post Office for her own use in an interview with USPS investigators on July 10, 2008.
She pleaded guilty in March to misappropriation of postal funds.
Gillis told investigators she spent some of the money on personal bills and gambling debts. She also used some to bail her nephew out of jail. Neither the court documents nor Woodcock said where Gillis had spent money on gambling.
The defense cited her family’s bankruptcy, difficulty with her daughter and the closure of her husband’s sawmill as stress factors that enticed her to steal.
Woodcock’s ruling also included restitution for the money she stole, which as of Thursday she had paid back in full.
As a stipulation of her probation, Gillis is not allowed to have a credit card without the permission of her probation officer.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Lowell recommended that Woodcock sentence Gillis to jail time, though he conceded that it was a “close call,” given her apparent remorse, close ties with her church and community and the repayment of the money she stole.
“She had a good job in a part of the state where jobs are scarce and she stole from her employer,” he said.
Lowell commented that “she only stopped when she was found out,” although “even with the abuse of trust [of a federal position], the decision is a close one.”
Under the prevailing federal sentencing guidelines, the recommended sentence was between zero and six months. The guidelines also allow a judge to impose a defendant to probation.
Gillis told Woodcock her greatest concern was for her granddaughter, who is currently in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services and is slated to be released into her custody soon, she said.
She told Woodcock that she would accept whatever judgment he passed down as “God’s will.”
Woodcock told Gillis he was afraid to be too lenient and was inclined to sentence her to jail time to deter future theft by postal employees.
“But today, Mrs. Gillis, I‘m sentencing you, I’m not sentencing them,” he told her.
By imposing the fine, Woodcock said he hoped to punish Gillis without making it impossible for her to pay.
“In stealing money, you have revealed what you value,” he said.