Woman admits to stealing $350,000 from law firm

Rebecca Shaw, 49, pleaded guilty to Breach of Trust With Fraudulent Intent and Forgery during a hearing Tuesday in Darlington County Tuesday morning.

She admitted to stealing nearly $350,000 from a bank account maintained by Saleeby & Cox law firm in Hartsville, where she worked for four years as a paralegal.

Judge Paul Burch sentenced Shaw to 10 years in prison - suspended to nine months.

When Shaw is released from prison, she will be placed on probation for five years.

She has to pay back $155,000 to the firm. If she fails to make restitution she could face more prison time.

Officials with the firm say most of the money stolen by Shaw was being held for payment of clients' medical bills or liens after their personal injury cases has been resolved.

Shaw was fired from the firm in 2008 following the discovery of the stolen funds. She was arrested in 2010 by agents with the State Law Enforcement Division.

The investigation found the thefts started in 2003. Prosecutors say Shaw had been able to cash 127 checks made payable to third parties at the law firm's bank and also deposited in her personal bank, 72 checks made payable to others.

Saleeby & Cox sued the two banks for negligence.

Shaw's attorney says his client is deeply sorry for what happened and is willing to make a payment of $35,000 immediately. "She is extremely remorseful for these actions that bring her here today. And she's clearly guilty of what she's charged with," said Morgan Martin.

Saleeby & Cox used its own money to pay back former clients and medical providers who had their funds stolen.

The firm says it has reimbursed more than 100 former clients. "The firm's first obligation was to clients and while it had been very expensive to undertake and track down all the clients to repay them without help from the banks, it was the right thing to do," said Ed Saleeby, Saleeby & Cox Law Firm.

The South Carolina Attorney General's Office prosecuted the case.