Judge Don Langford had harsh words for Weed’s Mary Raeleen Ross when he sentenced her to five years probation and one year in county jail  on embezzlement-related charges in a Siskiyou County courtroom last week.

Judge Don Langford had harsh words for Weed’s Mary Raeleen Ross when he sentenced her to five years probation and one year in county jail  on embezzlement-related charges in a Siskiyou County courtroom last week.

“I won’t pretend that I have any significant insights as to what is the dynamic at work in your life,” Langford said during Ross’s sentencing hearing on Feb. 15. “All I know... is that whatever that dynamic is, it has absolutely devastating impacts on families and businesses in our community.”

Ross was immediately reprimanded into custody at the urging of the District Attorney’s office, said Siskiyou County DA Kirk Andrus.

Ross pled guilty on Jan. 11 to perjury, identity theft, financial elder abuse, counterfeiting a seal and three counts of forgery, as well as one count of misdemeanor embezzlement while working at Aquarius Well Drilling in Mount Shasta.

Ross was also ordered to pay nearly $1 million in restitution to Sharon and Ray Williamson, who have owned the local business for 40 years. Sharon said they knew about Ross’s past embezzlement convictions and chose to give her another chance when they hired her as their office manager in 2003.

Langford acknowledged the Williamsons’ kind intentions and praised them for giving Ross a second chance.

“I want to reiterate to the entire Williamson family that while you might regret the decision... to give the defendant a second chance, I want to remind you that the personal values and the reasons why you made that decision were profoundly good and they speak well of your family,” Langford said. “Not only are they good in a general sense, they’re vital to the welfare of our community.”

If Ross violates her probation, which comes with “a long list of terms and conditions,” she’ll face eight years, four months in custody. Because of the state’s public safety realignment which went into effect on Oct. 1, Ross will not be eligible for state prison time. Because her offense is not categorized as serious, dangerous or sexual, she’ll be required to spend that time in county jail, Andrus said.

“Even though she’s a repeat felon who’s already served 16 months in prison for a similar offense, we couldn’t, under any circumstances, send her back for this charge,” Andrus said. “It’s a joke.”

The Williamson’s daughter, Michelle McLean, made a prepared statement in court, Andrus said.

“She was very articulate... it really made an impact. She described the many ways Ross’ crimes impacted her family, both emotionally and financially... it was absolutely devastating for them,” Andrus said.

Ross is accused of pocketing $25,000 or more in cash while working at Aquarius, as well as filtering the couple’s mail and phone calls and not paying the company’s bills – including insurance, worker’s compensation and taxes – which equates to “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Sharon said.

Ross allowed the Williamson’s long term health care policy to lapse for several months, McLean told the court. “By the time the discovery was made, the insurance company refused to reinstate the policy as too much time had passed,” said McLean in her prepared statement. “They had been paying on this policy for eight years... The insurance company has now refused to write a new long-term health care policy because due to a pre-existing condition caused by a pulmonary embolism, she is no longer eligible for coverage. This lapse would have never occurred, had they received the mail Ms. Ross intercepted. Now my sister and I will not have the ability to pay for her care, when and if something happens.

“The emotional and mental impact of Ms. Ross’s crimes against our parents is also far-reaching,” McLean continued. “They have (been through) many trials and tribulations in their business, but never one as devastating as this. My sister and I have never seen our parents in such despair. This has been emotionally devastating on our whole family. Ms. Ross was treated like a daughter, and someone we trusted wholeheartedly. She shared holidays and other family events with us... Our parents are in their seventies. All their hope of ever retiring is now gone. They are unable to spend time with their children and grandchildren because they’re forced to work 6 and 7-day workweeks to sort out this mess and keep their business afloat. These long work days and weeks are taking a toll on their already marginal health.   They are severely depressed.  Depressed because everything they had, and everything they looked forward to is now in danger of being lost.”

Ross, Andrus noted, didn’t react to either McLean’s or Langford’s statements.

Andrus said Langford reserved jurisdiction over the final restitution amount Ross will be ordered to pay the Williamsons.

Ross was also ordered to turn over her tax returns so the court can determine her income and what she should be able to pay. She was ordered to begin restitution in the amount of $200 a month immediately, Andrus said.

According to Siskiyou County Court records, Ross was convicted of embezzlement in 1993, and served time in state prison for the same charges in 1999. In 2003, she was convicted of petty theft, sentenced to 120 days in jail and ordered to pay restitution. Her restitution account was paid off and closed in October, 2007.