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Paralegal misses restitution payment; trial date set in grand theft case

NEW PORT RICHEY — Another deadline passed Wednesday in the long-running case of Kristen Collins Lausberg, a former paralegal accused of bilking thousands of dollars from law firm clients.

Another deadline, and still no resolution.

Lausberg, 33, was working for Port Richey lawyer Jessica Miller in 2006 and 2007, when authorities say the two women spent freely on shopping trips and family vacations using clients' money. The total of their theft was nearly $70,000.

Miller, 33, pleaded guilty last year to four counts of grand theft and was sentenced to more than four years in prison. She brought $250 — the proceeds of a garage sale — to court toward restitution.

Lausberg has paid $20,000 in restitution, a sum that nearly landed her a plea deal that would have spared her any prison time. But the victims who saw their money disappear objected and a judge rejected the deal last May.

Her case has been in limbo since. Lausberg was allowed to withdraw her plea in January and prosecutors said they were ready to take her to trial.

Then in a hearing last month, Assistant State Attorney Mike Halkitis said if Lausberg could come up with another $7,500, she could get her original plea deal to serve house arrest, with some weekends in jail, as she continued to pay back the rest of the $70,000 tab.

Halkitis said the offer was renewed because Stanley McEwen, one of the clients who lost money, desperately needs it. He is in poor health and told prosecutors getting back the $15,000 he lost was more important than seeing Lausberg go to prison.

So she had until Wednesday to come up with $7,500 — her half — or else face trial.

She didn't have the money, so Circuit Judge Stanley Mills set a trial date of Sept. 19.

"My plan is to have this resolved before trial and simply pay the additional $7,500 they have now requested," Lausberg said in an e-mail after the hearing.

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6245.

Paralegal misses restitution payment; trial date set in grand theft case 04/27/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 27, 2011 8:38pm]
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