The sobbing sister of TV personality Jesse James was sentenced Monday to three years in federal prison for embezzling about $336,000 from her former employer in Los Alamitos, forcing the family-owned business to shut down.
U.S. District Judge James Selna indicated at the start of the Monday’s hearing that he was considering a sentence reduction from 37 months to two years based on an appeal from Juliana James England’s husband, who said he needed help raising their sons.
In the end, however, Selna decided on the stricter punishment after hearing from the victims of England’s fraud. He also ordered her to pay $368,152 in restitution.
England’s brother, Jesse, 46, is known for starring in the unscripted TV shows “Monster Garage” “Jesse James is a Dead Man” and “Celebrity Apprentice.” He was married to actress Sandra Bullock from 2005 to 2010.
Jurors in February deliberated about 2 1/2 hours before convicting England, 50, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, of three counts of wire fraud for embezzling from Callan Western Sales Co. while serving as the secretary and office manager from March 2000 to August 2007.
The embezzlement forced the closure of the company, an independent sales firm that contracted with sporting goods manufacturers, members of the Callan family told the judge.
England tearfully pleaded with Selna for the two-year sentence as she apologized for her crimes.
“First and foremost, your honor, I want to apologize to Mrs. Callan, her daughter and the entire family for the anguish I have caused them,” she said. “I have deep regret and I truly desire healing and closure for all of them.”
England added, “I am accepting full responsibility for my actions… This is a path I never want to follow again.”
In the seven months she has spent in custody since her conviction, England said she has taken multiple self-improvement classes, earning 16 certificates, and has attended regular Bible study sessions.
Jennifer Callan Jones, the daughter of the company’s owner, told the defendant, “Juliana, I appreciate your apology and I forgive you. I forgave you a long time ago.”
But she said the family, although warned by Los Alamitos Police that pursuing the case would take a significant emotional toll on them, did so because they did not want anyone else to be conned by England.
“Pursuing these charges was not revenge. It was about accountability,” she said.
Jones said she found it “mind-boggling” that with a maximum sentence of 20 years on each count, the judge debated between two and three years in custody for England. Pursuing justice in the case took nine years, a period in which her father died, she noted.
“My dad didn’t live long enough to hear your apology,” Jones said.
Referring to pre-sentencing papers filed with the court that noted the crimes were not violent, Jones said, “I think my dad would disagree. He was stabbed in the back.”
She added, “There was certainly emotional and financial violence.”
Jones also railed at the defense team, which sought to highlight her father’s infidelity as an explanation for some of the misspent funds.
“He did not deserve to have his name dragged through the mud,” Jones said.
Jeff Babb, who was president of the company, told Selna of “sleepless nights” as he tried to figure out why the business was failing no matter how hard they worked. He said the extra work he put in to try to help save the company cost him time with his sons and wife.
“I’m stilling trying to make it up to my wife for all the times I was short with her,” Babb said.
Babb said he found England’s apology unconvincing.
“Your tearful apology doesn’t ring clear because I watched you for years turn on the tear machine and manipulate (the company’s owner) over and over again,” Babb said.
The owner’s wife, Shirley Callan, said England would often call her to dip into the family’s personal savings to make payroll, for a total loss of about $187,000.
The defendant maintained the check ledger and handled other financial issues for the company. She filled out at least 55 checks payable to herself or to her creditors — totaling about $33,000 — from March 2003 to July 2007, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
England “covered her tracks by writing a false notation on the check stubs, which were provided to the CPA, indicating payment to legitimate company vendors,” according to court papers.
She also doctored payments she made for personal expenses and made unauthorized charges to company credit cards. She rang up $280,000 from early 2000 to July 2007 on a Citibank Visa card and $23,000 from July 2005 to September 2007 on a company-issued American Express card, prosecutors said.
When questioned about the unauthorized charges on the credit cards, she said the bank made a mistake by including her personal charges on the company account, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
—City News Service