ELLSWORTH, Maine — A Bar Harbor woman has pleaded no contest to charges of felony theft in exchange for a deal that allows her to stay out of jail while she tries to make restitution of tens of thousands of dollars.
Jennifer L. Lozano, 42, will have to spend at least nine months in jail, even if she repays the more than $68,000 she stole through check and credit card fraud. If she doesn’t pay off the money in the next six months, she’ll have to spend double that amount of time behind bars.
Lozano faced up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine for each of the two class B theft charges she faced. She pleaded no contest to each of the charges last week in Hancock County Superior Court.
One charge stemmed from a check scheme pursued by Lozano last fall. Lozano, who used to own and run the now-defunct Parkside Restaurant and adjacent Best of Bar Harbor gift shop, stole the funds in late October 2011 by writing several bad checks for several thousand dollars each with one bank account, depositing them in a checking account at a second bank, and then quickly withdrawing the unsupported funds from the second bank.
The bad checks were issued on an account Lozano recently had opened at Maine Savings Bank with $150 and then deposited at Camden National Bank.
Before Camden National realized something was wrong, it submitted all eight allegedly fraudulent checks, which totaled $54,000, to Maine Savings Bank, which then returned them all with a notice of “not sufficient funds,” according to a police affidavit filed in court. After Camden National submitted the checks a second time, they were returned again marked “closed account,” the affidavit indicates.
In all, Lozano stole $52,099.28 from Camden National Bank. She did not withdraw all the $54,000 she allegedly wrote fraudulent checks for, police have said.
The second theft charge stemmed from similar activity in November and December 2010, in which Lozano double-billed some Parkside Restaurant customers who had paid for their meals with credit cards, according to Assistant Hancock County District Attorney Mary Kellett.
In that scheme, months after customers had dined at the restaurant, Lozano ran some of the credit card slips, for identical amounts, a second time through her retail gift shop, Kellett said Friday. Lozano may have double-billed customers for a total amount between $30,000 and $40,000, the prosecutor said, but repaid customers who called the businesses to complain.
First Data, a credit card processing firm, sustained most of the losses incurred by Lozano’s credit card fraud, according to Kellett. She said Lozano’s plea agreement requires the former restaurateur to repay $16,346.07 to victims of the double-billing.
“We’re really focused on what [evidence] would have been presented in court,” Kellett said of the credit card restitution order. “We had a forensic financial analyst look at all the paperwork.”
The restitution order for the bank check fraud totals $52,099.28, the same amount that she took from Camden National. Kellett said Lozano has been paying restitution and, so far, has repaid the bank for about $49,000.
Justice Ann Murray sentenced Lozano on Sept. 4 to concurrent five-year sentences on each theft conviction. Lozano has until early February 2013 to repay to combined restitution order of $68,445.35. If she repays all the money before then, she will have to serve nine months behind bars at Hancock County Jail. If she does not, she will have to serve 18 months at a state-run corrections facility.
In either case, Lozano will have to serve two years of probation after she is released.
Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter.