Assistant who swindled author Melody Beattie gets probation - FOX 10 News | myfoxphoenix.com

Assistant guilty of swindling best-selling self-help author gets probation

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Sharon Schultz Sharon Schultz

Melody Beattie is best known for the best-selling books she's authored on recovery and addiction, but her personal assistant added a long, difficult chapter in her life by stealing more than $400,000.

Prosecutors charged Sharon Schultz with six counts of theft by swindle, but the case dragged on for more than two years. On Tuesday, Schultz was finally sentenced -- but even though she faced serious prison time, she won't serve any.

No one seemed more upset than Beattie, author of "Co-dependent No More" and other related titles. Yet, the writer was in no mood to talk about her reaction to being ripped off let alone discuss what occurred in court when Fox 9 News approached her to ask about the complicated relationship she had with Schultz.

Schultz was accused of collecting Beattie's royalty checks and funneling the money into her own account -- or her daughter's -- to support a gambling addiction. A total of 298 checks over 5 years totaled more than $400,000. She once denied the allegations, claiming Beattie approved the payments; however, she pleaded guilty in front of prosecutors who were asking for 5 years in prison.

Instead, Judge William Howard ordered Schultz to a year in the workhouse and probation, describing the conflict between the two women as "a long-term relationship that spun out of control."

"There's a lot underlying the course of that relationship that would not be appropriate to comment on publicly," Schultz's defense attorney, Emmett Donnelly, said.

Schultz made allegations about her former boss -- allegations that Fox 9 News will not repeat because they are unsubstantiated, not because Beattie threatened to sue.

In many ways, the case appeared to embody classic manipulation by a gambling addict -- and it could be a chapter in one of Beattie's best-sellers if it wasn't already.

"This was a difficult experience for both people," Donnelly said.

Hammond explained that one of the reasons he opted for probation is that Schultz has no prior criminal record. She has also been ordered to pay back at least $261,000, and Hammond says she wouldn't be able to do that if she was sitting in prison.

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