Patricia Smith earned $53,000 a year in her job at an Acura dealership near Pittsburgh. She used that position to embezzle more than $10 million from the company, which she used to buy a series of weird, sad items that look like a list of “rich person stuff” that seems straight out of Brewster’s Millions. Smith bought private jet charters, a baby grand piano, a mink coat, Super Bowl tickets, a $32,500 luncheon for six prepared by “Barefoot Contessa” Ina Garten at her barn in East Hampton, an $11,100 dinner with Kevin Spacey, VIP seating as a Mass delivered by the Pope, a private tour of the Sistine Chapel, and, yes, cars. Maybe she used her employee discount for that last one?
Prosecutors said Smith had transferred cash from her employer to her own bank account more than 800 times since 2004. That works out to an average of $4,000 a day. Yesterday, she pled guilty to wire fraud. Her punishment: 6 and a half years in prison, a mandate to pay the money back (though she’s not expected to be able to do this), and a lifetime spent imagining what she could have done with the money if she’d never been caught.
Smith’s haul may have been unusually large, but according to the Department of Justice (as reported by the Huffington Post), almost a third of employees commit some kind of theft on the job — and the down economy has only made it worse.
As awful as Smith’s crime was, it’s hard not to feel sympathetic for her. She told a local news reporter that she had had an abusive childhood, was a compulsive gambler and shopper, and that “she never felt like a good daughter, wife, mother or friend, and this was her way of earning love from others.” She also said she wanted to see “what happiness looks like.”
PSA: Happiness does not look like an $11,000 dinner with Kevin Spacey followed by six years in prison.