Jillian Hanson-Cox sentenced to thirty months in federal prison
Jillian Hanson-Cox will start her 30-month federal prison term on Jan. 14 after a judge sentenced the former El Cajon council member Monday for embezzling $3.6 million from her former employer Century Design Inc. (CDI).
Hanson-Cox, 53, was allowed to remain free on a $100,000 bond over the Christmas holiday by U.S. District Court Judge Michael Anello in San Diego. She resigned from the El Cajon City Council on March 5, a week after her home and former office searched by the FBI.
Anello ordered her to pay $3,653,152.95 to Century Design Inc., and to pay $1,221,677 to the U.S. Treasury as a penalty for not declaring the stolen money as income. She paid $38,000 to the firm before sentencing.
She pleaded guilty Sept. 12 to mail fraud and filing a false income tax return. She wrote checks to herself and others, which included minor celebrities who appeared in the Mother Goose Parade and other events.
Approximately 75 supporters of Hanson-Cox showed up at the federal courthouse, and it resulted in long lines to get inside the courthouse and the courtroom. Walter “Bob” McClellan, an El Cajon City Councilmember, spoke in her defense, but said he was not speaking on behalf of the Council.
The victim, Robert Basso, 84, of La Mesa, sold the company in 2011 before he was aware of the embezzlement committed by Hanson-Cox, who was the firm’s controller from 2004-2008.
“I wish the sentence was more severe,” said Basso afterwards. “The sentence was too short. We were a strapped company. The IRS did a great job of unearthing (the embezzlement),” he added.
Basso founded the machine manufacturing firm in 1957. He said he wasn’t aware Hanson-Cox was writing checks to herself and others.
The new owner, Keith McConnell, wrote a letter to the judge that said “Jillian’s crimes affected well over 60 people and cost CDI over $7.5 million.” He wrote that he terminated her and her husband, Robert Cox, who also worked there, immediately after learning of the FBI investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Clark asked the judge to impose a 51-month term, while her attorneys sought a sentence ranging from 15-21 months. The probation department recommended two years, according to court records.
“While embezzling millions of dollars from CDI, former councilwoman Hanson-Cox not only traded on her reputation as a public official, but also betrayed every citizen who expected her to act honestly in both her private and public affairs,” said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy in a statement.
“Ms. Hanson violated the trust of her employer and the people she served in the community,” said Daphne Hearn, an FBI special agent in a press release. “She enriched herself at the expense of those who trusted her the most.”
Her attorney, Charles Sevilla, told reporters afterwards that his client “has a conscience, (but) unfortunately she stopped (using) it during the embezzlements.”
“She was obsessed with these good works. She wanted to revitalize the parade. It was wrong, but that’s a partial explanation,” said Sevilla.
“She wanted the celebrities to (help) the parade. Unfortunately, she used funds that were not her own.”
“A person with no record would be sent to a minimum security prison,” said Sevilla, who added that he requested she be sent to one in Phoenix.
Hanson-Cox had no prior record and was given the title of El Cajon Citizen of the Year during her Council years. There were 102 favorable letters sent to the judge by the community including McClellan, Mayor Mark Lewis, and Clifford Diamond, a retired chief of police for El Cajon, according to court records.
McClellen and Lewis both wrote they were not speaking for the El Cajon City Council, but as individuals who knew her. Lewis wrote that Hanson-Cox had worked to end homelessness, alcoholism, and reduction of graffiti.