HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ A Connecticut woman who embezzled more than $600,000 from a synagogue where she was the president was sentenced Thursday to 21/2 years in prison by a federal judge.

A judge also ordered 45-year-old Jodi Churchill, of Orange, to pay restitution and serve six months of home confinement, the U.S. Attorney’s office said. She pleaded guilty in May to mail fraud.

Authorities say Churchill embezzled $661,000 from Beth El Synagogue in Southbury and used stolen money to pay school-related expenses for her children, costs for leasing a horse, vehicle payments, airline tickets and hotels. Authorities say she also provided stolen funds to a relative.

Churchill’s attorney had sought a sentence below guidelines, noting she is the primary caretaker for her two children and has significant mental health issues, including problems with impulsiveness, depression and anxiety.

“Ms. Churchill committed a serious offense,” wrote her attorney, Kelly M. Barrett. “She appreciates the gravity of her actions and is physically sickened by them. She has, however, done more than simply recognize her malfeasance. She has taken steps to seek out why her criminal behavior occurred, to make amends, and to take steps to ensure that she does not re-offend.”

Prosecutors recommended she be sentenced within guidelines of about three to nearly four years in prison.

“The stealing was not a one-time lapse in judgment, but repeated thefts, withdrawing funds from the synagogue bank accounts over 60 times over many months and using the synagogues limited resources as her private piggy bank for private schools, riding horses for her daughter, vacations, mortgage payments and spending cash,” prosecutors wrote in court papers.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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