A Canfield woman was sentenced to four years’ probation for stealing $30,000 from a neighbor whose house she used to clean.
Cheryl Balasko, 54, of Montgomery Drive, pleaded guilty June 21 before Judge Maureen A. Sweeney of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court to a fourth-degree felony theft charge.
Judge Sweeney imposed the sentence Monday, directing Balasko to make the agreed-upon $15,000 in restitution to the victim and to perform 500 hours of community service at the Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley over the next two years.
Police said she stole the money from a suitcase under the bed of her 56-year-old female neighbor for about two years.
The victim, who reported the loss in February, told police she began saving cash several years ago for emergency use.
When they executed a search warrant at Balasko’s home in April, police said they found large quantities of designer clothes and accessories and receipts showing Balasko paid for the purchases with cash.
The prosecution, the victim and the defense agreed to the restitution amount and to recommend that Balasko serve probation with community service.
Carla Baldwin-Fields, an assistant county prosecutor, said Balasko has no prior criminal record.
“Life is not, and never will be, the same since Cheryl Balasko violated us within our own home,” the victim said, referring to herself and her husband and adding that they have had trouble sleeping since they discovered the theft.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t feel shame for what I’ve done,” the tearful and apologetic Balasko told the judge.
“This was an error in judgment based upon dire financial problems within her own home,” Albert Palombaro, defense lawyer, said of Balasko. He added that his client is remorseful and has accepted responsibility for her wrongdoing by pleading guilty.
Judge Sweeney ordered Balasko to have no contact with the victim and her husband unless they seek contact through the court, and she barred Balasko from leaving Ohio without her probation officer’s permission.
“If you violate any term or condition of your community control, you go to prison for 18 months,” the judge told Balasko.