Former School Employee Gets Prison Time


Phyllis Woods, a former bookkeeper for the Payson Unified School District, will spend the better part of the next decade in prison, following her sentencing in Gila County Superior Court Thursday.

Originally pleading not guilty to allegations of theft, the 62-year-old changed her plea July 20, pleading guilty to four counts of fraudulent schemes and artifices.

Payson Police detectives began investigating allegations of theft last fall when they received a tip from school officials. Armed with a search warrant, detectives searched the home Woods shared with her husband, Paul, on school district property. There, they found evidence in her records that she had allegedly paid personal bills with checks written out of the school district's revolving fund.

During the investigation, school officials and state auditors turned up roughly $161,000 that had been pilfered from school coffers over a period of four years.

"On the first two counts, she received two 5-year sentences for the years 1996 and 1997," County Attorney Jerry DeRose said. "On counts three and four, she received 9.25 years for the years 1998 and 1999.

"We separated them into four years because that provided us with the maximum possible sentence," he said. "We could have had a thousand separate counts, if we wanted to ... there were that many checks."

All of the sentences run concurrent, which means Woods will spend 9.25 years in the Department of Corrections, and DeRose said she'll spend at least 85 percent of that time behind bars.

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