Local Woman Sentenced After Embezzling Half Million Dollars

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A local woman who stole at least $500,000 from her former employer is going to prison. A judge sentenced 48-year-old Julie Kay McDonald to 8-and-a-half years in prison today, but the victim of the theft says McDonald's punishment does not fit her crime.

48-year-old Julie Kay McDonald was the chief financial officer at Textured Coatings of America, but during her last 4 years at Tex-Cote, she spent a lot of her time stealing.

Panama City Police investigators say McDonald used her position to electronically transfer money from the company's payroll account into her personal accounts. An outside audit determined she took somewhere in the neighborhood of $500,000. But Tex-Cote owner Jay Haines says it was more.

"She stole over $700,000 from our company over a 3 year 10 month period."

The thefts came during the toughest part of the recession. Realizing his business was suffering, but not fully understanding the reason, Haines turned to McDonald for solutions - her solution was to cut expenses.

"During the time that she stole money from our company, she actually, herself, terminated in excess of 25 of our employees, or 40 percent of our work force," said Haines.

One of those employees was in court Thursday when McDonald was sentenced. Haines asked judge Elijah Smiley to give McDonald the maximum sentence which could have been as much as 120 years, but Judge Smiley opted for an 8-and-a-half year sentence. The employee was disappointed and so was Haines.

"The most upsetting thing to me is, instead of these employees being with this company, she stole so much money that it forced this company to eliminate a lot of good employees- a lot of good employees in Bay County, which is really frustrating and disheartening to me."

For now Haines is trying to rebuild the business McDonald nearly destroyed. However he takes consolation in the fact she will not be able to victimize anyone else for quite some time.

"At least some justice was given today, I'm sure we'll never see the money, I'm sure the employees who were eliminated as a direct result of her actions will not come back, but at least she's in jail and locked up."

Investigators say McDonald spent most of the money she took. They recovered only a fraction of it when she was arrested.

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