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Ex-DSS manager confined to home

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Jodi Cooper

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Cooper must also serve 3,000 hours of community service for embezzlement

By Preston Knight-pknight@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- With restitution paid in full, a former Shenandoah County Department of Social Services office manager was spared prison time Wednesday in Circuit Court for embezzling nearly $70,000 from the agency.

Jodi Cooper, 44, was sentenced to 12 years in prison, all suspended, for four counts of embezzlement. She stole $67,129.60 and used it for payments on Sprint, DirecTV and Nutrisystem personal accounts, as well as to Shenandoah Memorial Hospital, Best Buy, Amazon, an event planning company, a salon and to pay taxes.

The embezzlement took place beginning in February 2006 and lasted until February last year. Cooper worked for the county for at least 12 years, and her last day was March 16, 2010.

Judge Dennis L. Hupp had delayed sentencing several times to ensure that full restitution was paid. A $25,058.63 check from the Virginia Retirement System was the main delay, and it finally arrived at the court recently. The balance of the restitution came from defense attorney William B. Allen III's trust account.

Hupp said he insisted that restitution be paid upfront, or a plan to pay it in short order be formed, because he was otherwise unwilling to adhere to sentencing guidelines in the case, which called for probation and no incarceration. He said the facts of the case justify incarceration, but he also gave Cooper the opportunity to pay the money back.

According to a letter from Social Services Director John Ayers, the embezzled funds included $27,900 used for the homeless prevention program, causing it to end and denying 50 families services, and another $9,700 from the day care fund.

"[You stole] from programs designed to assist those who are most desperate," Hupp told Cooper. "There's a debt owed here beyond just paying restitution."

As a result, the judge said normal terms of probation would not apply. He sentenced Cooper to 10 years of probation, with the first five supervised and having the special conditions that she spend six months in home confinement and serve 3,000 hours of community service to help the poor, ill, handicapped, disadvantaged, young and old.

"The type of people for which you, in effect, stole this money," Hupp said.

Cooper will be allowed to leave her house in the first six months to attend church on Sundays, get medical treatment and go to work. She is employed full time at R.R. Donnelley, Allen said.

Cooper provided a brief statement to the court Wednesday.

"I'm truly sorry for what I did," she said.

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