Former Southold Charity Director Gets Prison for Thefts

By Carl MacGowan

November 26, 2008,0,7707857.story

The former director of a Southold charity stole from the poor as she tried to make herself rich, a Suffolk judge said yesterday.

Before he sentenced Pauline Winterbottom, 53, of Greenport, to 3 to 9 years in prison for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars while running the Catholic not-for-profit agency, Judge Ralph Gazzillo yesterday drew an unfavorable comparison between Winterbottom and a fictitious defender of the underclass.

"You're no Robin Hood," Gazzillo said. "You stole from the poor."

Winterbottom - who used the money to buy lottery tickets - pleaded guilty in April to one count of grand larceny, and has never tried to pay back the Diocese of Rockville Centre, prosecutor Lucie Kwon said. Gazzillo, sitting in Riverhead, yesterday ordered Winterbottom to pay $733,091.72 in restitution.

Prosecutors said Winterbottom stole the money in cash over a five-year period while she was director of North Fork Parish Outreach, which administers charity funds collected by four Roman Catholic parishes on the East End. The organization provides food, clothes and furniture and pays utility bills for the needy.

The theft was discovered during an audit. Kwon said authorities were unable to recover any of the money.

"She spent it all," Kwon said.

Winterbottom's attorney, William Goggins of Mattituck, blamed the diocese for his client's legal problems. He said Winterbottom was hired to run the center though she had no experience running a business, "lacks a formal education and had a gambling addiction."

"The problem with this case is that the Catholic Church has failed to take responsibility for its malfeasance," he said in a statement to Newsday. " . . . [The church] waited five years before performing an audit."

Sean Dolan, a diocese spokesman, declined to respond directly to Goggins' allegations, instead issuing his own prepared statement.

"Today's sentencing is significant for the closure it brings to all those affected by the unfortunate events at North Fork Parish Outreach," Dolan said. "The Diocese of Rockville Centre is grateful that healing can begin and that the four Roman Catholic parishes comprising the NFPO can refocus efforts during these challenging times on its core mission."

Before sentencing, Winterbottom told the judge she was "extremely remorseful."

"I know what I did was wrong and I am ready to be sentenced," she said.

A small group of Winterbottom's supporters attended her sentencing, but most declined to speak to reporters.

"She didn't deserve this," one said, declining to identify herself.

Kwon noted that Winterbottom was sentenced at a time when the sluggish economy is driving up demand at charities that serve the poor.

"The food pantries have been very spare," Kwon said.



Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.