• 68°

Mississippi woman sentenced for embezzling more than $266,000 from cancer charity

GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi woman has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for embezzling about $266,600 from a cancer charity.

Melinda Rosetti-Spence was sentenced Monday.

Harrison County Circuit Judge Lisa Dodson also ordered her to repay about $181,000 to Pink Hearts Fund, which is based in Long Beach. Rosetti-Spence’s family is paying the balance.

Rosetti-Spence volunteered as treasurer of the charity. Prosecutors said she wrote 132 checks to herself, from the charity, from March 2016 to July 2016. She pleaded guilty this April.

“And while you were stealing money from cancer patients who need help, your own family benefited,” Dodson said.
Rosetti agreed. Her mother, a cancer patient, received a free wig from the organization, which also gives prostheses to people with breast cancer and wigs to others with hair loss.

Rosetti-Spence said in court that she “had a gambling problem” and spent the stolen money on bills.

JoAn Niceley, who founded Pink Hearts Fund, says Rosetti-Spence betrayed her, stalked her and tried to discredit her with a board member.

Since getting out of jail on bond, Rosetti-Spence has worked in Florida and has done housekeeping, yard work, detailing and other jobs, she told the judge.

“I’m ashamed to be seen in public,” Rosetti-Spence said.

Rosetti-Spence said she has not made re-payments to Pink Heart during the two years since her arrest, and though she went into a rehab center, she has not attended a program for gambling addicts.

The embezzling occurred “in the cool, calm of the day” in an office, with time to think about what she was doing before she drove to the bank, Dodson said.

“You continued the deception when you could have turned this around,” Dodson said. “Now, suddenly, you want me to put you on a repayment schedule.”