NORRISTOWN — As an East Greenville woman wept and pleaded for forgiveness, a judge ordered her to jail for stealing more than $17,000 from her former employer, Laurel House, an East Norriton agency that assists domestic violence victims.

“You knew better. You stole property that was not yours. To steal from battered women and frightened children can never be sanctioned. That is what you did,” Montgomery County Judge Wendy G. Rothstein sternly addressed Jennifer E. Boyer.

“You were in a position of trust. In your high -level position you were and must be held to a higher standard,” Rothstein continued. “By all accounts you’re a good person. Unfortunately, good people make bad decisions. Bad decisions have consequences.”

Those consequences, the judge said, will include a 3-to-6-month stint in the county jail beginning Dec. 26. The jail term will be followed by three years’ probation, meaning Boyer, 43, of the 400 block of Third Street, will be under court supervision for 3½ years.

Boyer, who paid full restitution of $17,278 before her sentencing hearing, also must complete 200 hours of community service.

Rothstein said Boyer is prohibited from working in positions at non-profit agencies where she would have access to donations or funds. Testimony revealed Boyer currently works as a home health aide for an area family. The judge said Boyer is eligible for work release during her period of incarceration.

According to testimony, Boyer had a degree in sociology and once served on East Greenville Borough Council, about 10 years ago.

Boyer previously pleaded guilty to a felony charge of theft by deception in connection with incidents that occurred in 2018 while she worked as a senior staff person at Laurel House, which provides hotline and emergency shelter services as well as other supportive services for those in crisis due to domestic violence.

An investigation determined Boyer took socks and gift cards that were donated to the organization and sold the items on eBay and used the profit for personal use instead of depositing it in Laurel House accounts.

“She was conducting an elicit side business. This scheme is reprehensible,” said Assistant District Attorney Christopher Evan Daniels, who argued for jail time against Boyer, adding Laurel House officials who trusted Boyer were “crushed” by her betrayal. “The impact on the victims in the case was severe.”

Daniels didn’t doubt that Boyer previously helped clients of Laurel House in their darkest hours during her tenure there, but he said she must be punished for her betrayal.

“This is one of those Jekyll and Hyde type cases where you have somebody that’s a great person on their face and then they have this backroom thing that they’re doing that no one would ever suspect or believe, that eventually comes out and then crushes all these people,” Daniels said. “A lot of trust was placed in her.”

Several Laurel House board members, in letters to the judge that were read in court, expressed their shock and disappointment about Boyer’s conduct, explaining their trust in her “was irreparably broken.”

“The impact of the loss of these items for the people we serve, who are in desperate need, goes well beyond the dollar amount stolen,” long-standing board member Diana M. Scott wrote. “Laurel House clients are victims who have often lost all hope of ever being able to lead productive, meaningful lives.”

Scott said the gift cards and other items that Laurel House provides often represent the first step in the beginning of a new life for clients.

“Jennifer’s actions easily delayed or, even worse, prevented some victims from having the opportunity to start over after living through extremely difficult circumstances,” Scott added.

Board members said Boyer was well-liked and that they found it difficult to reconcile her actions with the person they had known for many years.

“It is disheartening and unfathomable to think that a senior member of the staff of this organization who worked with domestic violence victims everyday could even consider taking from those who need it,” Mary Griffith-Alfarano and Colleen Lelli, co-presidents of the agency wrote, adding “our victims, or should we say survivors, use our organization to build a new life.”

Boyer sobbed as she apologized and begged for forgiveness as more than two dozen supporters looked on in the packed courtroom.

“I’m more sorry than I can express in words. I am a shell of the person that I was,” said Boyer, who implied she was struggling financially and experiencing personal difficulties at the time of the thefts.

Defense lawyer Michael E. Furey argued for a sentence of probation and community service for Boyer, citing her remorse and cooperation with investigators.

“It was wrong and she knows it. She consistently admitted it. Her remorse knows no bounds,” Furey argued. “She is not the sum of her misdeeds.”

Boyer’s friends and supporters, including former East Greenville Mayor Ryan J. Sloyer, described her as a “caring woman” who was committed to volunteer work and they asked the judge to show leniency. Sloyer said many people still respect Boyer.

An investigation of Boyer began on Nov. 5, 2018, when administrators of Laurel House contacted East Norriton police to report a possible theft.

“(Administrators) told me Boyer had not made any purchases of the socks in question or gotten permission to sell socks,” alleged East Norriton Detective Michael Henricks.

Laurel House officials told authorities that Boyer previously had permission to sell items on eBay with the proceeds to be deposited into Laurel House’s accounts, however, that was a few years ago and Boyer had not had permission since that time, according to the arrest affidavit.

When Boyer was confronted by detectives about the allegations she confessed, court papers indicate.

“Boyer stated her family was going through some financial difficulties and there were times she sold items belonging to Laurel House (gift cards, clothing, etc.) through her eBay account,” Henricks alleged. “Boyer said she had every intention of making Laurel House whole but was unable to.”

Detectives determined the loss related to the theft reached $17,778, according to the arrest affidavit.

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