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Embezzler sentenced to county jail

GREENFIELD — The 39-year-old Greenfield paralegal who has admitted to embezzling close to half a million dollars from her employer’s law practice will spend time in county jail, followed by five years’ probation with conditions including restitution of some part of the stolen money.

After her sentencing Monday in Franklin Superior Court, a bailiff led away Melissa Wright in tears to begin her jail time.

Superior Court Judge Mary Lou Rup sentenced Wright to 2 1/ 2 years county jail time, followed by five years probation with special conditions including house arrest in the first year after her release, that she hold no job with financial responsibility, and that she pay restitution monthly in an amount to be determined by the probation department according to her circumstances.

Wright has pleaded guilty to embezzling $455,232 over four years from her long-time employer, Greenfield lawyer Mark Berson, through false checks and embellished hours. Berson enumerated thousands of dollars in other costs as a result of the theft, including a forensic audit, insurance costs and computer system replacement.

Wright’s lawyer, Alexander Nappan, said the sentence was fair.

“Not going to appeal. She stole half a million dollars, it’s a fair sentence,” Nappan said following the court session. Nappan said his client recognized that, and he had done what he could to get her a lighter sentence. “It’s just so much money,” he said.

Nappan had asked for five years’ probation, with a year in county jail if any jail time were to be served; prosecutor Steven Gagne had called for three to five years in state prison.

Arguing for the lighter sentence last week, Nappan said the crime was motivated by Wright’s love for her fiance, Greg Brown. Nappan said Wright spent thousands of dollars on toys for Wright’s children and gave him money to bail out his contracting business, telling him the money came from a trust fund.

Arguing for state prison time, Gagne said Wright spent most of the money on herself, on vacations, home improvements, drinking, partying and dining.

The prosecution and Berson had not requested restitution.

Rup said the likelihood Wright would be able to make restitution was slim to none, barring a windfall or inheritance, but should sacrifice financially to some degree as a matter of principle.

Rup said incarceration was appropriate due to the period and scale of Wright’s crime, but that time would be served in a county House of Correction rather than state prison due to Wright’s background and lack of a criminal record.

You can reach Chris Curtis at: ccurtis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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