By  on July 7, 2009

A former top Saks Fifth Avenue fine jewelry saleswoman was sentenced Monday to 90 days in jail and fined $96,000 for stealing from the retailer.

A State Supreme Court jury in March convicted Cecille Villacorta, 52, of third-degree grand larceny and falsifying business records for improperly taking $48,500 in commissions from the department store’s flagship. After a two-week trial, she was acquitted of more serious accusations that she had handed out $1.4 million in discounts to achieve those commissions.

Justice Gregory Carro said Villacorta’s clean record before the Saks charges, and unblemished stints at luxury outlets such as Bergdorf Goodman and Cartier, did not justify the two-to-six-year prison term sought by prosecutors.

Addressing the court on behalf of Saks, director of customer service Andrea Robins said Villacorta’s conduct was disgraceful and asked the judge to impose a harsh prison sentence.

“Theft is a serious crime,” Robins said. “Its victims are every one of us: those who work in retail, those who invest in retail companies or in companies that do business with retailers and, most directly, those who shop and pay higher prices to compensate for losses resulting from theft.”

During the trial, Manhattan assistant district attorney David Nasar said Villacorta built a loyal customer base on the improper discounts, which she could only enter into Saks’ computer system through deceit, thus boosting her bonuses.

Defense attorney Joseph Tacopina said Villacorta was a consistent top earner for Saks, generating $27 million in revenues for the company during her eight years on the fine jewelry sales floor and only after Saks sought to implement cost cuts in 2005 did the luxury store accuse Villacorta of wrongdoing.

Villacorta, who wept during the hearing, said outside the courtroom that the outcome of the sentencing was “a victory.” Carro also ordered her to serve five years probation and perform 100 hours of community service. She is to surrender on Aug. 10.

Tacopina said he would appeal the conviction. He added that another former Saks employee had been ready to testify that the company authorized her to use the same techniques as Villacorta, but that the district attorney’s office promised to prosecute her if she did. Tacopina said he would raise the issue on appeal.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office declined to comment on the sentencing.

Police arrested Villacorta, a native of the Philippines, shortly after Saks discovered her distorted sales figures and fired her in early 2006. Prosecutors said Monday she could face deportation.

Villacorta has a civil suit pending against her former employer accusing the retailer of malicious prosecution.

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