A former police dispatcher charged with gambling away nearly $10,000 raised for a paralyzed cop is now betting on a judge to decide her fate.
April Briscuso, 40, entered a blind plea on Monday to one count of felony stealing, meaning a judge will determine her sentence without a recommendation from prosecutors who earlier sought a seven-year suspended sentence with 30 days of shock time in jail, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
Briscuso was arrested in November after organizing several fundraisers for former Hazelwood Police Officer Craig Tudor, who was paralyzed in an on-duty crash in August 2016. Police in St. Louis County said Briscuso, a veteran dispatcher of 11 years, admitted stealing at least $9,500 in donations intended for Tudor and gambled it away at local casinos.
The thefts were uncovered after Tudor and his wife, Christine, told investigators they had not received money raised at several events hosted in their name — including at a St. Louis Cardinals game — except in cases where checks were made payable directly to them.
Briscuso told unwitting donors to make checks payable to her even after the Tudors told her to stop. She had been previously depositing donations into her personal account, court documents show.
In a statement released Tuesday, the Tudors said they assume Briscuso’s decision to enter a blind plea is a “gamble on her part” to hopefully receive a lighter sentence than the one recommended by prosecutors, which also included five years of probation, restitution and a gambling ban.
“We pray that the judge in this case will be fair and just, and take this matter seriously,” the statement read. “Not only has April stolen from Craig, but also intentionally defrauded hundreds of our friends, family members, and kindhearted, generous citizens and organizations.”
Briscuso’s attorney did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday, the Post-Dispatch reports. She’s due to be sentenced on July 16.
Briscuso’s arrest in November stunned city officials, a Hazelwood spokesperson told KMOV.
“She did a hell of a job raising money,” the spokesperson said. “We thought it was all going to him. Kind of a shock to everyone.”
Briscuso told the Post-Dispatch after her arrest that she raised more than $75,000 for Tudor and intended to hand over all the proceeds. But the Tudors received “nowhere near that amount,” they told the newspaper.
Briscuso resigned following her arrest, meaning she’ll be able to keep her pension connected to her $47,000-a-year post and received more than $2,800 for unused time off, Hazelwood police told the Post-Dispatch.
A GoFundMe account established for the Tudors, meanwhile, has raised more than $35,000 as of Wednesday. The couple has said the account is the only website where donations will reach them, the Post-Dispatch reports.
“There is no need for the Hazelwood Police Department Benevolent Association to be an intermediary,” the website reads. “This is a start and we will keep everyone informed as details are released.”