She could have gone to prison for 20 years for stealing more than $16,000 from the PTA at a Hillsborough County elementary school.
Instead, Lisa Shirah will spend less than 30 days in the Polk County Jail.
The 34-year-old Plant City woman was sentenced Friday for her role in thefts that occurred while she was treasurer of the PTA at Springhead Elementary in eastern Hillsborough County. Shirah was arrested in September.
She wrote herself a check for $3,500 from a spring fling event that never materialized. There was a $2,500 check made out to her for a barbecue dinner that didn’t happen. And a $35 check for stamps was altered to become one for $3,500.
Polk Circuit Judge Glenn Shelby accepted her guilty plea to four of the 16 original counts. The Polk County State Attorney’s Office did not proceed with prosecution on the other charges, which were filed in Polk because that is where the checks were cashed.
Shelby withheld judgment in the case, as well, so the offense will not appear on her record if she meets all the conditions of her sentence.
“She’s sorry,” her attorney, Gregg Kamp, said after she was handcuffed and led away by bailiffs after sentencing. “She’s very remorseful.”
Kamp told the judge that the mother of two had lost the dental hygienist job she had held for 14 years and that she was also going through a divorce.
Her mother, father and aunt were in the courtroom as she was sentenced.
“I think it’s a good resolution,” said Brian Haas, a Polk County assistant state attorney. “We were able to get the money back for the children. We understand they desperately need that.
“This is also punishment for this,” he added. “She’s going to jail. She’s there now.”
Each of the four charges she pleaded guilty to – grand theft, uttering a forged instrument, forgery and criminal use of personal identification – are third-degree felonies punishable by up to five years in prison.
After her short stay in jail, Shirah will be on probation for five years. She cannot have a job where she handles money or property belonging to others or one where she has access to the financial information of other people. She can have only one checking account.
Officials at Springhead Elementary declined to comment Friday.
But Haas said the restitution should have arrived in their hands already.
“That’s a heck of a lot of money for anybody to lose,” he said, “let alone a school organization.”