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Ex-manager gets 30 months in prison for $607,000 theft from children's services agency

The federal judge ordered Sarah McQuillar, 51, to reimburse Northern Children Services for the money she admitted embezzling.

The former manager of a Northwest Philadelphia mental health services facility has been sentenced to 30 months in prison and ordered to repay $607,067 she admitted embezzling over a 12-year period.

Sonja McQuillar, 51, of New Castle, Del., was sentenced Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Gene E.K. Pratter based on McQuillar's March guilty plea to theft and making false statements to authorities. The former director of health and information management at Northern Children's Services, McQuillar admitted creating phony invoices to pay family members, friends, and agency contractors for work they did not perform.

The charges against McQuillar in the embezzlement from Northern were the result of a tip to the Philadelphia Office of Inspector General. The nonprofit's administrators discovered the financial improprieties in June 2014.

The lost funds helped lead to Northern's public appeal for funds to help repair a broken boiler that had forced some buildings to close in winter at the agency's site on Ridge Avenue in Wissahickon.

"This case is an example of the most damaging kind of theft," city Inspector General Amy Kurland said in a statement. "The defendant stole taxpayer dollars that were meant to support at-risk children."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Morgan had sought a federal sentencing-guidelines prison term of 37 to 46 months. Defense attorney José Luis Ongay asked for a 24-month sentence, citing McQuillar's continuing care of her 14-year-old son and need to repay the stolen money.