A former Lorain Municipal Court deputy clerk was sentenced Friday to one year in prison and ordered to repay the court system $31,000 she stole while on the job.
Sierra Dozier, 26, will also be under federal supervision for three years after her release from custody, according to U.S. Attorney for Northern Ohio Steven Dettelbach’s office.
Dozier pleaded guilty to a federal mail fraud charge in November but continues to face theft in office, theft and drug charges in Lorain County.
Although Dozier and her attorney had urged U.S. District Judge Patricia Ann Gaughn to spare her prison and instead place her on probation, federal prosecutors pushed for a prison sentence in the case. Dozier, they contended, undermined public faith in the justice system.
“Dozier secretly used her position of public trust to enrich herself,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Antoinette Bacon wrote in court documents filed last month. “She slowly, secretly stole money paid to the Lorain Municipal Court, and doctored court records to cover her tracks. The Lorain Municipal Court, law enforcement and the citizens of Lorain will feel the ripple effects from her crime for years to come.”
Dozier was arrested during a May 2013 raid on the Columbo Lane home in Lorain that she shared with her now-husband Julio Osorio. Lorain police found six pounds of marijuana and $862 in cash during their search of the house.
They also discovered Lorain Municipal Court documents, including traffic citations, checks payable to the court and clerk’s office envelopes.
Dozier later admitted to police and a representative from Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will’s office that she would steal from those who came to court to pay fines, court costs or bonds. When she received a check, according to an FBI affidavit detailing the conversation, Dozier would put the check in her drawer and then take out cash.
Sometimes she converted cash bonds to personal bonds and then stole the money that someone put up to get a defendant out of jail.
According to the FBI and prosecutors, she also altered court records to prevent defendants from losing their driver’s licenses or other repercussions so they wouldn’t notice their fines and costs hadn’t been paid.
Lorain police had to briefly suspend arresting people on Lorain Municipal Court warrants after Dozier’s arrest because of the problems she created, something Bacon noted. She also said the problem of collecting money owed to the court continues to be an issue.
“It is difficult to collect on outstanding fees and fines levied prior to Dozier’s termination, as people continue to report to the Court that they paid Dozier and they must be one of the unidentified victims of her scheme,” Bacon wrote. “At this point, the Court has little option but to trust those representations.”
Lorain Clerk of Courts Lori Maiorana, who fired Dozier last year, did not return a call seeking comment Friday.
In her own court filing, Dozier wrote that she had nothing to do with the drugs found in her home and that being arrested gave her a “sense of relief.”
“I worked there for seven years. I was never at peace with what I was doing,” Dozier wrote.
“Needless to say having your guilty conscience eating you alive was not enough to stop me so something had to give.”
Dozier also wrote that she was stealing between $200 and $300 a week from the court, which she used “for diners (sic) out and recreation outings mostly.”
But she also wrote that she took steps to make sure that the defendants she stole from weren’t negatively impacted.
“I had taken measures to make sure that the people wouldn’t incur legal consequences or penaltie(s) from my taking the money since they had actually paid their fines,” Dozier wrote.
Vicki Ward, Dozier’s attorney, did not return a call seeking comment Friday.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.