LISBON - An East Palestine woman who stole nearly $45,000 from mentally disabled clients at Threshold Residential Services to feed her own gambling addiction will spend the next two years in prison in Marysville.
Cynthia Robb, 53, North Market Street, was sentenced Thursday in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court by Judge Scott Washam with more than 20 people in the courtroom supporting her. She had pleaded guilty in January to theft and forgery, both second-degree felonies.
Assistant County Prosecutor Ryan Weikart reported Robb was program director at Threshold, a position of trust. While in that position, she had submitted fraudulent requests for funds for Threshold clients and then when the money came, she took it for herself instead of giving it to the clients. There were 139 transactions of that sort made over a one-year time span.
Despite the seriousness of her crimes, several people testified they were shocked by Robb's actions, which did not fit with the woman they knew.
Sue Gregory, who worked with Robb for 24 years at Threshold, noted, "She was always there for Threshold and she was always there for the residents no matter what."
She added when police asked Robb about the money, she owned up to what she did right away. Gregory said she loaned Robb $300 after she knew about the charges and Robb paid her back.
"I just know she is a good person," Gregory testified, "and she has always been a good person. What she has done hasn't changed that."
Robb reportedly spoke to her fellow employees and friends about what she did. Sharri Kaitz said Robb always made herself available to work East Palestine school athletic booster stands, especially when Robb's son was playing sports. She continued to work with the boosters even after the thefts became known.
"Actually, I commend her," Kaitz said. "She told me about it long before it came out in the paper."
She said she was more concerned Robb seemed depressed by what happened and angry with herself. Still, she said she completely trusts Robb.
Cindy Raley, a friend for the past 15 years, currently works for Robert Bycroft but once worked under Robb at Threshold. Raley said Robb was caring and would do anything for the clients.
"I would trust her with my life and with my children," Raley said.
Raley noted Robb also had cancer at one point and needed surgery and chemotherapy in Cleveland Clinic to recover. Raley stayed with her during some of those days.
The court also heard from Robb's Gamblers Anonymous sponsor and her counselor at the Family Recovery Center. Both talked about the progress Robb has made and how she is now also helping others coming for gambling addictions. Her counselor, Linda Railing, noted Robb was first dealing with anxiety and depression before learning gambling made her feel better. However, the guilt from gambling and the things she did in order to get the money to gamble only made her feel more depressed, which caused a pendulum situation.
Railing noted if Robb continues to seek treatment she has a good chance of succeeding. While the counselor noted Robb understood what she did was wrong, she had a compulsion to continue.
Robb's son, a senior, also testified noting when his mother was gambling it changed her from the supportive mother to one who he never knew when she would come home. He moved out for a while, but now said his mother has begun improving with counseling.
"My mom is an outstanding woman, no matter what," he said, adding as an adopted son he had abandonment issues growing up. "She is an amazing person."
Speaking on her own behalf, Robb noted she lost a job she loved and hurt people with her lies and actions.
"I don't know if I will every know why," Robb said. "It's truly baffling, but it has stripped me of all dignity and self worth that I have. I describe it as a monster that grabbed onto me and wouldn't let go. It made me lie, cheat and steal. I just checked out.
"I'm overwhelmed with the amount of support I have had."
Robb's attorney, Richard Hoppel, who once battled his own drug addiction problem, said at one point Judge David Tobin recognized he was out of control. He added Tobin had no choice but to send him to jail because he needed it. In the case of Robb, Hoppel argued she has already hit bottom and is in the process of rebuilding her life.
Further drawing comparisons, Hoppel noted while Railing has said there are few success stories, he considers himself one and believes Robb could be one, too.
"Ms. Robb has made incredible progress," Hoppel said. "She can be an asset to this community."
While he credited her with making progress and taking responsibility for her actions, Washam noted Robb had 139 opportunities to stop harming the 29 victims in the case, people who were unable to fend for themselves, before handing out the two-year sentence.