WEST COVINA — A former Covina Police Department civilian records clerk was sentenced to 2 years and 8 month in prison Wednesday, and ordered to repay nearly $310,000 she stole from the city.
Family members cried as Louise Vance-Wasilchin, also known as Mary Wasilchin, 58, of Upland was placed into handcuffs and escorted from a courtroom after receiving her sentence from West Covina Superior Court Commissioner Harold Mulville.
She was pleaded guilty to hiding a report of her son-in-law’s May, 2008 drunken driving arrest, preventing his prosecution, officials said. The son-in-law was not suspected of having knowledge of the impropriety.
Covina Police Chief Kim Raney said the process has been a difficult one for all involved.
“I’m glad it’s over,” Raney said.
“It is my hope that she serves every day of the 2-year 8-month prison sentence,” the chief said.
Under the plea agreement, Wasilchin was to serve her sentence in prison and not be eligible to serve it in county jail under the state’s prison re-alignment program.
“I’ll be a little disappointed if she gets out early,” Raney said.
Wasilchin’s husband, Richard Wasilchin, said his wife’s crime was an uncharacteristic lapse in judgement.
“My wife, she’s never been in trouble in her life. She’s never had a speeding ticket,” he said.
“Obviously, she made a huge mistake, and she’s willing to pay for it,” he added.
Richard Wasilchin also questioned how a non-sworn department employee could be capable of such a massive theft could take place and go undetected for more than three years.
“Maybe they need to look at their policies a little more,” he said.
Louise Wasilchin, who wore a white sweater and remained silent other than answering “yes” when asked if the stipulated to the amount of restitution, cast family members a small smile as a bailiff led her out of the courtroom.
Wasilchin pleaded guilty late last year to stealing more than $100,000 worth of parking meter money, fine money and vehicle impound fees.
Police alleged she actually stole more than $340,000, and at her sentencing and restitution hearing Wednesday, Wasilchin admitted the theft amounted to $309,032.
She was ordered to repay the money to Covina, plus 10 percent interest annually. Slightly more than $5,000 already seized from her by Covina police was counted toward her debt.
The theft took place between January of 2008 and May of 2011, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Officials first became suspicious of Wasilchin after she was involved in a car crash in April of last year and police noticed she had about $1,000 worth of quarters in a canvass bag in her car, according to Deputy District Attorney Edward Miller, who prosecuted the case. She was not working that day.
Detectives then found an additional $3,000 or so worth of quarters in her home and office, and as the investigation went on, the amount of the alleged theft grew to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Additionally, when officials searched her desk at work on May 5, 2011, they discovered a police reported she had intercepted, preventing her son-in-law from being prosecuted for DUI, district attorney’s officials said. The arrest had occurred in May of 2008.
After nearly eight months of investigation, officials arrested Wasilchin Dec. 15, 2011 and placed her on leave, officials said. She resigned a short time later.
The plea deal prior to trial, along with Wasilchin’s subsequent admission Wednesday that she owes the city more than $300,000, “is reflective on both the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit and the investigators,” Raney added.
Following Wednesday’s hearing, a deputy immediately took her into custody to begin serving her sentence.
Prior to a plea deal she reached with authorities late last year, Wasilchin could have faced up to six years and 8 months in prison.