Appearing with her attorney Roscoe Stovall, Sonya M. Stroud, 40, Brazil, entered a preliminary guilty plea as part of a negotiated plea agreement with the Clay County Prosecutor's Office.
Stroud agreed to plead guilty to three counts of class D theft in exchange the prosecutor's office would drop the remaining two charges of theft and one forgery charge.
On January 3, Stroud was booked into the Clay County Justice Center after the Brazil City Police Department concluded a six-month investigation into missing funds at Brazil Trucking, Inc.
According to Det. Clint McQueen, paperwork filed with the prosecutor's office alleged Stroud exerted "unauthorized control" over numerous company checks used to repay expenses incurred by over-the-road truckers without the permission or knowledge of her employer. These incidents allegedly dated back to January 2004 and totaled more than $280,000.
As part of Monday's court proceedings, Stroud took the stand in front of family members and a representative of Brazil Trucking, Inc., to explain how the checks she was in charge of balancing the books for were mishandled. Since the total amount one check could be made out for was $3,000, Stroud admitted to filling out numerous checks and cashing them for her personal use at two Clay County truck stop facilities near Interstate 70.
Stroud made it a point in court to say she did not give any of the money to her husband.
However, Stroud is pleading guilty to acquiring $219,450, very little of which was put in bank accounts. When Akers asked how the money was spent, Stroud admitted to what she called a "shopping addiction."
Stroud prepared a lengthy list of how -- to her best knowledge -- she remembered spending the money, which included purchasing a golf cart and a flatbed trailer, landscaping, air fare and other expenses for elaborate vacations, birthdays and holidays, adding to extensive Longaberger Basket and Boyd's Bear collections, purchasing display curio cabinets and doing various home and barn renovations.
When Akers asked if gambling was involved, Stroud said no and then quickly added she was not using drugs either.
"I really don't know why this happened," Stroud said. "I'm not a bad person. I just made some bad decisions and I'm truly sorry. It was like a shopping addiction for me and I know I'm going to have to seek some help for that."
Admitting the victim didn't deserve what happened, Stroud has agreed to make restitution.
If Akers accepts the negotiated plea agreement, Stroud would be sentenced to three years incarceration at the Indiana Department of Correction on the first theft count. The executed portion and the potential of home detention with work release, if eligible, will be decided upon during the sentencing portion of further court proceedings. On the other two theft counts, Stroud would receive consecutive sentences of three years each, which will be suspended with three-years probation on each count.
The court would also order that Stroud begin restitution payments within 30 days of release or beginning a monitored work release program.
Although a judge can accept or deny the terms of a negotiated plea agreement, if Akers accepts it, Stroud would be held to the terms. If Akers rejects the agreement, a not guilty plea will be entered on Stroud's behalf and a jury trial date would be set.
The next court date in this matter is tentatively set for May 4, barring any conflict with the court's calendar. Stroud was remanded back into the custody of the Clay County Justice Center to await the sentencing hearing.