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State

Former Tribune Co. executive gets 2 years in prison for fraud

(MCT) CHICAGO — A former Tribune Co. executive issued a tearful apology moments before she was sentenced Tuesday to two years in prison for stealing more than $260,000 from the media company.

Stephanie Pater, 39, visibly shook and occasionally used the lectern in court to balance herself as she expressed shame and embarrassment for defrauding Tribune Co. at a time in 2010 that the business was going through financial difficulties.

“I recognize the trust companies have held in me I will never have again,” she said as she clutched a cup of water.

Pater’s attorney sought probation so she could find a job and try to repay Tribune in full.

“I am eager to get back to make restitution as long as it takes me to do it,” Pater told U.S. District Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan.

In pleading guilty in June to mail fraud, Pater admitted she stole $264,000 by creating bogus contracts with Tribune Co. that improperly directed commissions from a real estate brokerage business to her company. A former director of real estate for Tribune Co., she had left the company in 2010 to form her own real estate management business, and Tribune Co. hired her to oversee its real estate holdings for a monthly fee. Tribune Co. owns the Chicago Tribune.

In January, a month after she was charged, Pater drew the ire of the judge when she failed to appear for her arraignment three times. She finally surrendered and was held in custody for six days.

Pater apologized Tuesday for her conduct. Her attorney, John Legutki, told the judge that she was hiding in her home in a panic.

“Miss Pater went into a catatonic state and didn’t move from her house,” Legutki said.

In asking for a sentence of up to 3 1/2 years in prison, Assistant U.S. Attorney Rick Young said Pater’s embezzlement was not a simple one-time aberration but a scheme motivated by greed that involved fabricating documents over many months.

“The lack of any apparent reason leads to one conclusion — greed,” Young said. “To have a lifestyle she couldn’t have.”

Der-Yeghiayan acknowledged Pater’s apparent remorse as well as her lack of a criminal record in handing down his sentence.

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©2013 Chicago Tribune

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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