A former Delaware County Sheriff's Department civil clerk who pleaded guilty to stealing money last year appeared in Delhi Town Court on Wednesday on new charges of tampering with business records and misconduct.

Julie R. Pietrefesa, 38, of East Meredith and Davenport, was arrested Tuesday on a felony charge of first-degree falsifying business records and official misconduct, a misdemeanor. The felony charge carries a minimum sentence of one year and a maximum of four years in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.

Pietrefesa pleaded innocent to the charges, and attorney Robert Gouldin was assigned to represent her. She was released on her own recognizance to await county court action, court officials said Wednesday.

In December 2006, Pietrefesa pleaded guilty to second-degree falsifying business records, a misdemeanor. She admitted stealing at least $28,752.39 from the Sheriff's Department Civil Division. Last year, she was ordered to make restitution before July 31, 2008, but still owes $17,752.39, according to court records.

Delaware County Undersheriff Douglas Vredenburgh said the new charges are based on the investigation of a complaint made by an attorney's office that was seeking information about payment on a judgement.

"These charges are apart and different from the original charges," Vredenburgh said. "This is not double jeopardy." Vredenburgh said Pietrefesa allegedly created a false account within Civil Department software to conceal a civil garnishment filed against her for an overdue credit-card balance of $1,870.

The account, created in a fictitious name that was very similar to Pietrefesa's maiden name, was not identified during two financial audits of the Delaware County Sheriff's Office Civil Department records, Vredenburgh said.

"The account was very well-concealed," Vredenburgh said. "You can have all the safeguards in the world, but when you have someone who is smart enough and familiar enough with the system, they can get around the safeguards." Vredenburgh said the sheriff's department is looking at new software programs that will close some of the loopholes that allowed tampering with the accounts.

Pietrefesa did not serve any jail time on the original charges because when the investigation began, the total amount of the embezzled funds was calculated at about $5,000, which led to the misdemeanor charge, Delaware County District Attorney Richard Northrup said previously.

Northrup said sentencing was delayed until the state Comptroller's Office completed an audit, which revealed that the amount was at least five times more than originally suspected.

Pietrefesa worked for the sheriff's department from January 2003 to December 2006.

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Patricia Breakey can be reached at 746-2894 or at stardelhi@stny.rr.com.

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