The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Former Ironwood Township treasurer gets 38 months in prison


May 25, 2018


Bessemer — While a last-minute defense motion delayed her fate for a little over a week, former Ironwood Township Treasurer Jyl Renee Olson-DeRosso left Gogebic County Circuit Court in handcuffs Thursday to begin her sentence.

Judge Michael Pope sentenced Olson-DeRosso, 48, to 38 months in prison for the most serious charge she faced — embezzlement by a public official. She was also sentenced on the other nine felony counts she faced — five counts of forgery, refusing to turn over records to the successor treasurer, removal and destruction of public records, using public money for her own use and diversion of taxes or public money by a public official — with minimum sentences ranging between 11 and 23 months on each charge.

Along with the prison sentence, Pope reiterated his May 11 ruling that the township is owed $1,398,654 in restitution to cover both the amount stolen and some of the costs the township incurred investigating the embezzlement.

“The defendant stands before this court for sentencing on 10 separate felonies. The defendant stands before this court owing the charter township of Ironwood close to $1.4 million. The defendant stands here having affected in excess of 20 victims,” Pope said while imposing his sentence. “She violated her position of public trust. She abused her power. She breached her fiduciary relationship with her fellow officials, not to mention the citizens of the community. She ignored her sworn duty. She misused her occupation. She used her position to justify her conduct.

“She did so over the course of ... at least five years.”

Olson-DeRosso will serve the sentences for her 10 charges concurrently, according to Gogebic County Prosecutor Nick Jacobs, and will have to serve at least the 38-month minimum, as Michigan law doesn’t allow prison sentences to be reduced for good behavior or other causes.

Olson-DeRosso had been scheduled to be sentenced May 14, but a defense motion requesting the hearing be adjourned was granted and the sentencing was rescheduled for Thursday.

In March, Olson-DeRosso pleaded guilty or no contest to 10 counts related to forgery and embezzlement occurring between 2011 to 2016 while she served as town treasurer.

On Thursday, Olson-DeRosso apologized, and said her poor mental health was the cause of her actions.

“I very much regret my actions that harmed the people of Ironwood Township,” Olson-DeRosso said when given an opportunity to address the court. “It was unfair of me to let my mental health issues affect my job.”

Ironwood Township Supervisor Steve Boyd also addressed the court, giving an impact statement on behalf of the township and its residents.

Boyd talked about a resident at the township’s forensic audit presentation who was angry he had to work to get by while Olson-DeRosso was stealing.

“He was upset so much of the money he struggles to make to pay his taxes had gone to line your pockets and be spent just to enable a lifestyle you wanted to have, but were unwilling to actually work to achieve,” Boyd said to Olson-DeRosso. “I think every township resident you have ever known shares those thoughts, and feels the same way.”

Later in his statement, Boyd put the amount in the case into perspective. He said dividing the restitution amount among the township’s 2,300 residents showed Olson-DeRosso stole $608 from “every man, woman and child in the township.

“If we do the same (math) for each household, we find you took over $1,272 from each and every family,” Boyd said.

He also said the Ironwood Schools were out roughly $533 for every child in the district, while the Gogebic-Ontonagon Intermediate School District had the equivalent of $984 per pupil stolen.

Due to the scope of the crime, Jacobs urged Pope to exceed the sentencing guidelines of 19 to 38 months as a minimum sentence for the embezzlement charge.

“It was more than her being caught with her hand in the cookie jar; she had her hand in everybody’s pocket,” Jacobs said. “The thing about it is, she did it the whole while with a smile on her face. It was like a magic trick, you didn’t see it coming.”

He said the amount owed in restitution, as far as he knew, was the largest judgment in the circuit’s history.

After the hearing, Jacobs said he was satisfied with the sentence and understood the court’s reasoning for staying at the upper range of the sentencing range.

Quoting Marc Antony in Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of Julius Caesar,” Olson-DeRosso’s attorney, Jim McKenzie, argued for a sentence within the recommended guidelines.

“Mrs. Olson-DeRosso has clearly, and always, understood that she’s extremely likely to go to prison. She knows that,” McKenzie said. “I’m not here asking you to sentence her to the county jail. That would diminish both my credibility and her acceptance of responsibility.”

Pope acknowledged the case was somewhat unusual in that it was dealing with a very serious crime, committed by someone who, up until then, had all the hallmarks of an upstanding citizen.

“In this case, we are dealing with extremes,” Pope said.

Ultimately, he said a sentence within the recommended guidelines was proportionate to the defendant and the crime in the case.

“The verdict, we feel, was fair and just and we’re sad and disappointed any of this happened in the first place,” Boyd said after the verdict, acknowledging it’s been a “long and difficult road leading to Thursday’s sentence.

“It’s now our intent to have the township moving forward,” Boyd said. “We can now get our audits corrected so we can be eligible to apply for state and federal grants, and then working with the insurance companies to get the diverted funds returned.”

Regarding the timeline moving forward, Boyd said he was unsure of when the township would be receiving payment from its insurance and bonding companies.

“The insurance agent we have is working on that,” Boyd said. “It’s all being worked on and we hope for a very speedy resolution.”

He was also unsure of what would happen with the township’s lawsuit against Olson-DeRosso and her countersuit in response.

“It’s still active, our attorney will be advising us on how to proceed after this point,” Boyd said.

Olson-DeRosso received seven days credit for jail time served prior to sentencing.


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