Hoax kidnap mom pleads guilty to stealing

June 21, 2011 at 8:19 PM
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PHILADELPHIA, June 21 (UPI) -- A Philadelphia-area woman who staged a hoax kidnapping in 2009 pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal charges and admitted she stole almost $1 million.

Bonnie Sweeten, 40, told a judge she embezzled from the law firm in Lower Southampton where she worked as a paralegal and took money being held for clients. She said she stole $280,000 from one of her own relatives, using it to replace some of the money she had stolen at work.

Sweeten served almost a year in prison for the fake kidnapping. She called police, claiming she and her daughter had been abducted and were locked in the trunk of a car. They were later discovered at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Denise Wolf said Sweeten is likely to receive a sentence of six to eight years. She must also pay restitution.

Debbie Carlitz, the lawyer Sweeten worked for, said she has no idea whether she will ever see any of the money.

"She's capable of so much more than I ever dreamed," she said. "What can I tell you?"

Since her arrest in 2009, Sweeten's second husband has divorced her. Her three children are in the custody of their fathers.

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