A former News-Review employee who stole thousands of dollars from the company for months in 2009 was sentenced Friday to 1½ years probation and must pay $5,000 in restitution.
Storianne Tipton, 34, now an Illinois resident, pleaded guilty in Douglas County Circuit Court to first-degree theft. As part of a plea deal, one count of first-degree aggravated theft, six counts of first-degree theft and five counts of second-degree theft were dismissed.
The former Douglas County resident worked for The News-Review as an account manager in the advertising department from March 2008 to December 2009.
About a year after she was fired, Tipton unsuccessfully sued her former employer in federal court for allegedly failing to pay overtime wages.
Deputy District Attorney Steve Hoddle said between August and November 2009 Tipton went to at least 12 businesses, telling people the newspaper owed her for overtime and that she had permission to accept trades for discounted advertisements.
Tipton’s supervisors said they never gave her permission to give extra discounts or accept merchandise or services for personal gain.
According to a probable cause statement, Tipton netted at least $6,652.25 from seven or more businesses. Hoddle said the total amount of money stolen from the company was unclear.
Another account manager, Jodi Ardito, 37, also was involved in the scheme, he said.
That case ended in a civil compromise with Ardito agreeing to testify against Tipton. Ardito reportedly told authorities the duo didn’t have permission to accept trades and that Tipton showed her how to do it, Hoddle said.
Tipton’s Medford-based defense attorney, Justin Rosas, who appeared by phone, said Tipton has said “from day one she had permission to do this.”
He said Tipton thought the trades were compensation for her lack of overtime pay.
Court documents state Tipton claimed that from March to October 2009 she regularly worked more than 40 hours per week, including evenings and weekends, and was not paid for overtime. She said she was instructed by supervisors not to record the extra hours on her timecard.
Her supervisors denied ever instructing her to not record all her hours or alter her timecard, according to court documents. They also argued they had no knowledge Tipton was working more than 40 hours a week, and that most weeks she didn’t even work a minimum of 40 hours.
In 2011, Tipton filed a complaint against the company in U.S. District Court in Eugene for failing to pay overtime wages.
There was no documentation supporting either sides’ claims, however, according to court documents.
A jury in 2012 determined Tipton was owed nothing and that she was to pay The News-Review for legal fees.
Tipton said Friday she had already paid the company $7,000 in the civil case.
“I’ve been very compliant with what’s been going on,” she said.
Circuit Judge Ann Marie Simmons said she understood this has been a complicated case.
“I would caution, you’re fairly young and you have the opportunity to overcome this, but you will probably want to be firm about employment contracts in the future,” she said.
“I hope things go smoothly for you in Illinois,” Simmons added.
Simmons also ordered Tipton to 40 hours community service to be completed within 120 days and to pay $1,500 of the restitution up front. Tipton was also given credit for serving one day in jail after her arrest.
• Reporter Jessica Prokop can be reached at 541-957-4209 and firstname.lastname@example.org.