Davis accepts plea; Vannis sentenced to six years
October 10, 2007 | 09:06 AM
Harrison Superior Court Judge Roger D. Davis accepted a plea Friday on behalf of Susan Vannis, the Corydon woman accused in March of taking nearly a $1 million from her employer.
Vannis, 46, pleaded guilty to two of the original seven counts of felony theft and received four years for each count, with two years suspended, resulting in a six-year prison term.
With credit for good behavior, she could serve less than three years in prison.
Vannis also paid $100,000 restitution Friday to Dr. Paul Kelty, the Corydon gynecologist-obstetrician whom she worked for 15 years. She was the doctor's office manager.
After reading both charges, Davis asked Vannis twice, "In common language, did you steal the money?" She replied, "Yes," both times.
The amounts Vannis admitted taking were $192,374 in 2004 and $197,455 in 2005; representing the two highest yearly amounts missing from Kelty's office and a total of $329,828.
The remaining counts, totaling $578,354, were dismissed.
In a statement to the court, Vannis' attorney, P. Michael Summers, implied Kelty was responsible for some of the missing money.
Special Prosecutor Cynthia Winkler objected to Summers' statements as irrelevant, but Davis overruled, pointing out that the defense could say, "the Earth is flat and the sun comes up in the west," if it wanted.
"All we're saying is that Dr. Kelty's hands aren't necessarily clean in this matter," Summers replied. He said that during a second disposition taken of the doctor in preparation for trial, Summers learned of a second mailbox in Louisville that was used by the doctor. Kelty was the only person with a key to that mailbox.
"Almost all of the stolen checks came out of a post office box in Louisville," Summers said. "We're not agreeing that Mrs. Vannis took all of the money."
After the sentencing, Kelty shook off the insinuation and said he was glad to see the case come to an end.
"I picked those checks up myself, but they were given to Susan unopened. Sometimes I would have a large stack of envelopes and give them to Susan, and I'd tell her, 'Looks like we might have some good ones here,' and then later when I'd ask her about them, she'd say that most were rejections or EOBs (explanation of benefits). You can ask anyone on my staff. She always had an excuse," Kelty said. "I'm ready to put this case to rest. I thought the special prosecutor did a good job, and I respect the judge's wisdom and thoughtfulness in regards to the case. I felt like it was a reasonable plea."
Davis said he rejected a plea agreement in August because he didn't think Vannis could pay the amount of restitution — totaling $300,000 — and he didn't think the time she would have spent in jail was long enough.
Even though the amount of restitution that Vannis was required to give back was less in the accepted agreement, Davis pointed out to the defendant, "I suspect this is just the beginning of your financial troubles," adding that the Internal Revenue Service could investigate the matter for possible criminal tax evasion and impose further penalties.
"The saddest part of all of this is not that you have to spend time in prison ... the saddest part is the harm you've caused to your family," Davis told Vannis.
After the hearing, Summers said the case was the most interesting he's ever defended.
He added: "I think it could have been even more interesting had it gone to trial.
"I mean, a million dollars doesn't just go missing and you don't know it. Had it gone to trial, I think the case would have been a whole different kettle of fish."
According to court documents, Kelty contacted Indiana State Police on Aug. 29, 2006, seeking an investigation of theft of cash from his office at 2000 Edsel Lane in Corydon.
A business consultant was hired by Kelty to review the records and audit the loss.
According to allegations stemming from the audit, checks had been cashed totaling the following, rounded: 2000, $82,721; 2001, $130,330; 2002, $141,668; 2003, $109,887; 2004, $192,374; 2005, $197,455; and 2006, $113,748. That totals more than $950,000.
The charge involving less than $100,000 was a Class D felony punishable upon conviction by a maximum of three years in jail plus a $10,000 fine. The rest were C felonies; each carried a maximum eight-year sentence plus $10,000 fine.
With bond set at $300,000, Vannis remained in jail nearly six months awaiting the outcome of the case. She is expected to receive credit for that time. With additional credit for good behavior in prison, she could be released in less than three years.