PLACERVILLE - A former American Red Cross manager was sentenced Wednesday for stealing thousands of dollars meant for victims of Lake Tahoe's Angora Fire.
John Hellman, 49, will do 16 months in state prison for embezzling $16,574 from a client-assistance program. He pleaded no contest Wednesday to three felony counts of grand theft by embezzlement.
Speaking in court Wednesday, prosecutor Richard A. Jones told a judge that Hellman belongs in prison even though he has no prior criminal record.
"It's one of the more onerous crimes we have seen in the sense that it was a pre-planned theft from victims of the fire. You have all the traumatic effects of the fire, and then you have him stealing money from Red Cross," Jones said.
Red Cross gave cash cards to Angora fire victims, which could be used to purchase needed items in the aftermath of the fire. Hellman cashed eight of these cards himself, and falsified documents stating the cards went to fire victims, said Carole Evans, interim CEO for the Sacramento Sierra Chapter. .
Those victims ultimately received the money they were entitled to, Evans said.
Hellman's attorney David Cramer also spoke in court, saying, "Mr. Hellman was one of the most remorseful clients I've ever represented. He did admit to the incident very early after he was approached by law enforcement."
After the hearing, Cramer said, "Mr. Hellman is a very nice person. He's not a criminal by any means. He made a bad decision."