NEW BRITAIN — A 40-year-old dentist’s assistant was sentenced to three years in prison Tuesday for embezzling more than $200,000 from her employer.
Donna Rizzo of the Unionville section of Farmington, formerly a manager in the office of Plainville dentist Thomas Peltzer, stole the money over a period of a year and a half, according to the charges.
Defense attorney Peter W. Soulsby told the court that Rizzo was intent upon showering gifts and treats upon Joseph Rizzo, whom she met while working at the office and eventually married. Donna Rizzo was caught after a co-worker in the office asked how a woman with Rizzo’s salary could afford such a large wedding, Soulsby said.
Joseph Rizzo is a sergeant in the New Britain Police Department. He was not implicated in the crime.
Donna Rizzo spent large sums on a home before her wedding, a car and pleasure trips to New York City, according to authorities.
Rizzo, whose annual salary at the dentist’s office was $30,000 to $40,000, told a Plainville police officer in April, 2001, before her arrest a month later, that she took the money because her employer was “evil” and had “stolen” her pension, court records say. She told the police she’d spent all the embezzled money on her children and to get out of debt, records say.
But a sobbing Rizzo apologized repeatedly to Peltzer Tuesday, and Soulsby said court officials had taken her critical comments about Peltzer out of context.
Then Rizzo told the judge: “I don’t know where to begin. I put all of you in an embarrassing situation.” Then, briefly turning toward Peltzer, she added, “I put you in one. I don’t expect anyone to forgive me. I won’t forgive myself.”
She said that to go to jail without reimbursing the dentist would be “the easy way out.” She added: “More than money, I hope he [Peltzer] will be able to get peace and trust people because that is more important than the money. That is priceless.” Rizzo said she will repay her former employer if it takes the rest of her life.
Superior Court Judge Howard T. Owens Jr. sentenced Rizzo to 10 years in prison, suspended after three years, five years of probation, restitution upon her release of $100 per week and appropriate mental treatment. Rizzo pleaded guilty to first-degree larceny in March without any promise of a fixed sentence ceiling.
Owens said he could not ignore the damages Rizzo caused to Peltzer, to his office, to his employees and others. Peltzer’s Hartford lawyer, Michael Budlong, said the embezzlement caused the dentist to cut back on benefits to employees and to work countless hours to recover financially. Assistant State’s Attorney Brian Preleski said it would take him five years of “take home” pay to make up the sum Rizzo stole.
Court records say Rizzo’s employer became suspicious about money shortages and called in a former employee to help audit financial records. The audit found patient payments made from 1998 to 2000 often were not posted against their balances and that some patient files were missing or deleted from the office records.
Police found that 160 checks totaling $150,000 payable to the dentist were deposited into Rizzo’s personal account after someone forged his signature, records say. Police said they also found bank records of 157 cash deposits totaling $49,931 into Rizzo’s account.
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