Deal Struck On Restitution, Sentencing Guidelines In Case Of Embezzlement At Water Mill-Based Radio Station Group

Stephanie Bitis

Weeks before a deadline imposed by a federal judge, an agreement has been reached between the prosecution and defense on just how much money a Sag Harbor resident defrauded her former employer out of and what the appropriate sentencing range is.

Stephanie Bitis, a former general manager of Long Island Radio Broadcasting in Water Mill, pleaded guilty in November 2020 to access device fraud for using a company credit card to rack up personal charges. Despite the guilty plea, the issue remained of how much restitution Ms. Bitis would have to pay and whether the amount of money involved exceeded the $250,000 threshold for a harsher prison sentence of 24 to 30 months under federal sentencing guidelines. Under the agreement explained in a Tuesday, May 18, letter from Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Bagnuola to U.S. District Judge Gary Brown, the parties now both accept that the victim’s loss amount is $302,585, but the prosecution will seek a sentence range as if the number was less than $250,000.

Ms. Bitis’s guilty plea had been based on the notion that the sentencing guidelines would be for only 18 to 24 months and that the loss amount was between $150,000 and $250,000, but then Long Island Radio Broadcasting’s affidavit of loss stated that Ms. Bitis had embezzled $302,585.

Ms. Bitis’s attorney had said during an April sentencing date that an accurate loss amount was closer to $188,000, after accounting for reasonable business expenses and the $12,329 in credit card payments that Ms. Bitis made at the time to conceal her activity. Judge Brown adjourned the sentencing and directed the parties to find a resolution by June 7. If they could not, the matter would be argued at court hearings, incurring more legal costs for Ms. Bitis and the victim.

Mr. Bagnuola’s May 18 letter reported that Ms. Bitis will pay $52,585 as restitution to Long Island Radio Broadcasting and the remaining $250,000 to the company’s insurer, which had paid out a policy for that amount.

The U.S. Probation Department recommended Ms. Bitis pay restitution at a rate of $25 per quarter while incarcerated, if applicable, and 10 percent of her gross monthly income thereafter. However, the judge had said at the April court date that if Ms. Bitis made a substantial payment prior to sentencing, he would factor that into his decision. The sentencing has been scheduled for July 23 to give her time to make a payment.

The federal sentencing guidelines are advisory, not mandatory, so the actual sentence will not necessarily be in the 18-to-24-month range.