Mississippi woman who blames $300K theft on shopping addiction won’t serve prison time

Published 12:47 pm Tuesday, August 24, 2021

A Mississippi woman who supported a shopping addiction by embezzling $303,000 from her employer will serve five years on probation for her crime.

Circuit Judge Larry Bourgeois sentenced Elizabeth Rose O’Neil, 37, to 20 years in prison, but suspended the prison sentence, gave her probation and ordered her to make full restitution, The Sun Herald reported.

In January 2020, O’Neil pleaded guilty to a felony charge of embezzlement. At her plea hearing, she admitted stealing between $1,400 to $1,600 a week from 2012-2017 while she worked as a bookkeeper at J.O. Collins Contractor Inc., a construction company in Biloxi.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

A company audit revealed the theft. O’Neil said she was able to disguise what she was doing by writing off the payments as a business expense, but then deposited the money into her personal account.

Defense attorney Don Rafferty said Monday that O’Neil has paid $189,526 of what she owes in restitution. During her plea hearing, O’Neil said she planned to sell some family land in order to make a significant payment to her former employer.

O’Neil is expected to pay $300 a month until full restitution is made.