Amid the cries and sobs of relatives who packed the courtroom, the former chief financial officer for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was sentenced this morning to 2 to 7 years in prison for her admitted embezzlement of more than $906,000 from the church treasury.
Anita Guzzardi turned and looked at her husband Angelo and mouthed the words "I'm sorry" as Common Pleas Court Judge Ellen Ceisler imposed the sentence.
Guzzardi, 42, of Barrington in Camden County, pleaded guilty in July to stealing more than $906,000 during a seven-year period from 2004 until she was caught last year.
Guzzardi's attorney, Louis R. Busico, had urged Ceisler to impose probation so Guzzardi could continue working to pay back the Archdiocese. He said she has paid $260,000 since her arrest in March.
Busico argued that Guzzardi's theft - which occurred during a time when she was steadily promoted and her salary went from $93,000 to $124,000 - was caused by her gambling addiction that in turn was triggered by her feelings of betrayal in 2005 when the District Attorney's office announced its first grand jury report about the sexual abuse of children by some Catholic priests in the region.
Assistant District Attorney Lisa Caulfield called her defense of addiction an excuse and said Guzzardi was motivated by greed and her "love of nice things."
While not imposing the prison term of 5-1/2 to 11 years requested by Caulfield, Ceisler rejected the defense request for probation, saying that it would send the wrong message to other business and nonprofit financial officers who might be tempted to embezzle.
In addition to prison, Ceisler said Guzzardi will serve seven years of probation when she gets out of prison. She also ordered her to pay restitution of $646,627 to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
The judge also rejected a request by Busico to allow Guzzardi a few days to say goodbye to family before reporting to prison.
"She was told to be prepared to go to prison," Ceisler said and sheriff's deputies immediately took her into custody.