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Pasco paralegal must pay up or face trial, state says

In May, Kristen Collins Lausburg brought to court $20,000, a portion of the money authorities say she and her ex-boss stole from clients.

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times (2010)

In May, Kristen Collins Lausburg brought to court $20,000, a portion of the money authorities say she and her ex-boss stole from clients.

NEW PORT RICHEY — A paralegal has been given a little more than a month to come up with money she allegedly stole from clients or go to trial on grand theft charges.

Kristen Collins Lausburg has already paid some restitution, including a $20,000 check she brought to court last May. If she pays the remaining $7,500 she owes in restitution, Assistant State Attorney Mike Halkitis said he is prepared to offer her the same plea deal as before: 45 days in the county jail, plus house arrest and several years of probation.

At a pretrial hearing Thursday, Circuit Judge Stanley Mills set Lausburg's next court date for April 27.

If she doesn't come up with the money by then?

"She goes to trial," Halkitis said.

Lausburg, 32, faces up to 40 years in prison on four counts of grand theft. Prosecutors say that beginning in 2006, she and her former boss and attorney, Jessica Miller, used the law firm's account as their personal ATM, spending $72,000 on shopping sprees, fancy lunches, cocktails and expensive family vacations.

Some of the money was attorneys' fees Miller collected for work she never performed. The bulk of it was money she and Lausburg allegedly spent from two clients' trust accounts.

The clients have mostly been repaid out of a fund administered by the Florida Bar, but not completely. Miller and Lausburg are on the hook to repay that fund.

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

She returned in the fall with $20,000 and a request for a reduced sentence. The judge turned her down.

Lausburg had previously entered into a plea deal with the state in exchange for her cooperation with authorities in making a case against Miller. But Lausburg withdrew that plea in January when Circuit Judge Michael Andrews, then presiding over the case, said the deal — which included house arrest and weekends in jail — was too lenient.

Lausburg declined to comment after Thursday's hearing.

Pasco paralegal must pay up or face trial, state says 03/24/11 [Last modified: Thursday, March 24, 2011 8:27pm]
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