Tallahassee couple sentenced for stealing from firefighter charity fund

By: Lanetra Bennett | WCTV Eyewitness News
March 27, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- A Tallahassee couple is now sentenced.

Joseph and Jennifer Amison are both convicted of racketeering and grand theft.

The two are accused of hosting a fundraiser for families of deceased firefighters and pocketing the money.

Circuit Judge Robert Wheeler sentenced Jennifer to five years in prison. He sentenced Joseph to a little more than three and a half years. Judge Wheeler said he believes Joseph was less culpable than Jennifer.

He also gave them both five years of probation.

Before announcing the sentence, Judge Wheeler said, "Certainly these were serious crimes that we are dealing with here. There was a pattern of lying and deceit quite rankly like I've never seen before."

Prosecutor Sara Hassler had requested both of the Amisons get five years in prison.

She said one year for each victim: the three firefighter families, the Amisons' landlord, and the community. Hassler says all are victims who had their trust betrayed.

Hassler the Amison stole more than money. "They stole people's kindness. They took advantage of all these people's generosity and they stole their trust. I find it very unlikely that there's going to be a similar event like this where people are willing to open up their pockets and open up their time and donate this kind of thing again," she said.

The judge also ordered the Amisons to pay restitution: $14,370 to go to the Amisons' landlord and $11,942.77 to go to the other families. Judge Wheeler says they have a $500 minimum payment each month.

The Amisons have 30 days to appeal the sentencing.

The defense requested the couple be allowed to bond out during the appeal process. Judge Wheeler said he needs to think about it. The Amisons will remain in the Leon County Jail until he decides.


By: WCTV Eyewitness News
March 27, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Joseph and Jennifer Amison, the Tallahassee couple found guilty of stealing from a charity set up to help the families of deceased firefighters, have been sentenced.

Tuesday afternoon, a judge sentenced Jennifer Amison to 5 years in prison plus 5 years probation and sentenced Joseph Amison to just over 3 and a half years (44.48 months), plus 5 years probation.


The Amisons have 30 days to file an appeal. The judge will decide whether they can bond out during the appeals process.


By: Fletcher Keel | WCTV Eyewitness News
March 2, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- A verdict has been delivered in the trial of Joseph and Jennifer Amison, who are accused of hosting a fundraiser for the families of deceased firefighters and pocketing the money.

A guilty verdict was rendered on Friday, with a sentencing date set for March 27.

Jennifer Amison was found guilty of racketeering, 2 counts of grand theft over $10,000, organized scheme to defraud, grand theft and failure to apply contributions in a manner consistent with solicitation.

Joseph Amison was found guilty of racketeering, 2 counts of grand theft over $10,000, organized scheme to defraud and failure to apply contributions in a manner consistent with solicitation.


By: Lanetra Bennett | WCTV Eyewitness News
February 20, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- The trial of a Tallahassee couple began Tuesday morning.

Joseph "Mike" and Jennifer Amison are accused of hosting a fundraiser for the families of deceased firefighters and pocketing the money.

The state says there are a list of lies by the Amisons.

The defense says this all stems from a bunch of angry, vindictive people in the community.

The 2017 fundraiser dinner was held for the families of two fallen Tallahassee Firefighters and a firefighter whose daughter who died in a crash.

The prosecution says about $30,000 were raised. But says the Amisons didn't pay the families until months later, after an investigation started.

Prosecutor Sara Hassler said, "Every single person who opened up their pocketbook to donate effectively was swindled out of their money. These first responders' families are short the money that was donated for this charity."

Defense Attorney Kevin MacNamara said, "It was never their intent to steal any money. This got generated up and jimmied up to what it is because of a bunch of rumors about a bunch of cash sitting on the table and a bunch of people at an event and people over estimating over and over again."

The Amisons ultimately paid $12,396 to be split among the three families.

The widow of one of the fallen firefighters testified that she felt uneasy from the very beginning when the Amisons first approached her about doing a fundraiser.

Against her better judgment, she said, she eventually agreed.

Sharla Deanda was the first to take the witness stand in the Amisons' trial.

She recalled the fundraiser dinner for the firefighter families being nice, calling it packed with people.

Deanda said she started getting suspicious about the Amisons because the couple never discussed when the proceeds would be dispersed to the families.

"I'm here because I want to do what's right as far as my husband's memory is concerned. My husband was black and white, as far as what's right is right and what's wrong is wrong," Deanda said on the stand.

When the prosecutor asked if she thought what happened was wrong, "I do," Deanda answered.

The prosecutor says the Amisons lied about health issues and used the money for personal gain.

The defense says the only person defrauded was the couple's landlord. He says the Amisons are sorry for saying Mrs. Amison had breast cancer to get a reduced rent payment.

The trial is expected to last two weeks.



 
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