December 20, 2014

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Former Lorain court clerk pleads guilty in U.S. court

Sierra Dozier

Sierra Dozier

CLEVELAND — A former Lorain Municipal Court deputy clerk of courts pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of mail fraud in U.S. District Court in a case stemming from her alleged theft of $15,000 to $20,000 in court costs and fees paid by criminal defendants.

Sierra Dozier, 26, of Lorain, pleaded guilty to the charge, which carries a recommended sentence of 12 to 18 months in jail, according to information provided by Michael Tobin of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cleveland.

Dozier is set to be sentenced in federal court Feb. 6.

Vicki Ward, Dozier’s attorney, did not return calls seeking comment.

Dozier was charged with mail fraud by federal prosecutors earlier this month following their investigation dating to a May drug raid by Lorain police on the home of Dozier and her now-husband, Julio Osorio. In that raid, police found six pounds of marijuana and more than $850 cash that police said Osorio, who was not yet married to Dozier, planned to use in drug deals.

Julio Osorio

Julio Osorio

The couple was arrested on drug charges following the raid, which also uncovered traffic citations and other Lorain Municipal Court paperwork in the home, including checks made payable to the court.

During a May interview with Lorain police and prosecutors, Dozier admitted to stealing the court funds, according to an affidavit prepared by FBI Special Agent Casey Carty.

According to the FBI document, Dozier told authorities that she placed checks, which had been sent to Lorain Municipal Court by criminal defendants to pay court costs and fines, into her court drawer before removing sums of cash that amounted to the exact sums in the checks.

Dozier also admitted to taking money paid in person, according to Carty.

The ex-deputy clerk of courts made changes in the court’s records to try to hide the thefts, but the changes were sometimes insufficient to conceal the thefts, according to the FBI affidavit.

Dozier was fired in July by Lorain Clerk of Courts Lori Maiorana after Dozier was indicted on drug and child-endangering charges.

Earlier this month, Ward said that because Dozier did not steal federal funds, she was surprised Dozier was facing federal charges instead of having the alleged thefts dealt with in state court.

The FBI affidavit states it was determined to be a federal matter due to the way in which the city of Lorain handled its bank accounts.

City Auditor Ron Mantini said last month that federal grant money was deposited into the same general city account used for other local revenues, including funds collected by the Lorain Municipal Court.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.