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Grand Island embezzler released from jail, avoids prison

By Matt Gryta
News Staff Reporter
Updated: February 05, 2010, 6:27 pm /

A Grand Island woman will be released from jail later this month, as soon as her lawyer delivers a check for $51,000 to repay part of what she stole from the discount greeting card store she used to manage, a judge ruled today.

Peggy Gaiser, 53, who stole more than $175,000 from the Card$mart store on Highland Parkway in the Town of Tonawanda, has been in jail since Dec. 23. She pleaded guilty in August to second-degree grand larceny for her thefts, which she said she used to feed her casino gambling habit.

State Supreme Court Justice M. William Boller told Gaiser he is sparing her from a state prison term of up to 15 years because of defense lawyer Thomas Eoannou's "wonderful" financial retrieval work.

At her sentencing Feb. 19, Gaiser will sign a confession of judgment for the unpaid balance of her theft of $175,716.

Eoannou said he used Gaiser family funds from a recent real estate inheritance and convinced all her relatives to "max out" their credit cards and turn over their own 401(k) holdings to come up with $48,000 of the money he will bring to court.

John C. Doscher, chief of the Erie County district attorney's Special Investigation Unit, had Gaiser sign over her own 401(k) holdings in court to Card$mart.

Doscher said the company already has recovered $25,000 through business insurance. He told Boller that in return for a term of five years of probation, he will also ask that Gaiser be forced to make $200-a-month payments for the next 10 years to cover at least $24,000 of her thefts.

Boller said while Card$mart is "not going to be fully paid back," he felt his stern handling of the case has alerted similar corporate embezzlers of the fate they face when their crimes are uncovered.

When Gaiser pleaded guilty last year, the judge told her she faced a five-to-15-year prison term if she did not come up with at least $50,000 in restitution at the time of her sentencing. When she failed to come up with the money, Boller sent her to jail.

Doscher said that from July 1, 2007 through Aug. 31, 2008, Gaiser routinely voided sales records and pocketed cash paid to the store. She had worked for the company for years and was promoted to store manager a little over two years ago.

She was indicted after a Card$mart regional manager contacted Town of Tonawanda police after noting unexplainable shortfalls in the store's receipts.