LARGO — A bookkeeper hired to look over the finances of television fitness personality Tony Little admitted on Monday that he did more than look.
Mark Schreiber, 52, pleaded guilty to grand theft for dipping into Little's business accounts and writing himself more than 150 checks.
He was sentenced to three years in prison, followed by 10 years of probation. A lien will be placed against him for the amount he admitted to stealing, $658,456.28. He also must receive treatment for gambling addiction.
Little, an energetic workout man known for his ponytail and upbeat promotions of fitness products, did not appear in the courtroom to see his former employee led off toward jail. But he was pleased with the outcome, said Latour "L.T." Lafferty, an attorney for Little.
"It's been a long haul and a trying time for Mr. Little, and he's glad it's resolved," Lafferty said. Referring to Schreiber's guilty plea, Lafferty added, "the best thing is to be vindicated and have them publicly admit this."
The plea avoids what could have been a highly publicized trial, because of Little's celebrity.
Asked if Little had wanted to avoid such a trial, Lafferty said, "nothing could be further from the truth." He said Little was prepared to testify against Schreiber, if the trial had gone off as scheduled this week.
Assistant State Attorney Greg Groger said afterward that "it's a fair sentence and the victim was happy with it. It avoids a trial and results in (Schreiber's) incarceration, which he deserved."
Schreiber made the plea as part of an agreement with prosecutors. He did not make a statement to the court, other than to answer some standard questions from Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Cynthia Newton. During those questions he said he was making the plea "based on it being in the best interest" of himself.
Defense attorney Donald C. Anderson III said he was ready to take the case to trial as scheduled this week, but said the sentence was a good one for his client, considering he faced a maximum of 30 years in prison. This sentence means Schreiber will be able to return from prison and spend time with his wife and six children, he said.
Schreiber, a former controller for various companies founded by Little, was arrested last year by Pinellas Park police. He reportedly told officers at the time that he was heavily involved in online horse wagering, and Groger on Monday said it was clear that much of Schreiber's money went to gambling.
Although Little did not appear Monday, he made his feelings known in a deposition.
"I would wish to see him spend time for his crime," Little told attorneys.