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Sentencing Postponed in Credit Card Fraud Case

Thu, 05/06/2021 - 12:22

The sentencing of a former Long Island Radio Broadcasting executive for credit card fraud has been postponed while the defense and prosecution dispute the amount of money involved in the crime.

Stephanie Bitis of Sag Harbor was fired from her post as general manager in 2017 and pleaded guilty in November 2020 to a felony charge of fraud, admitting she had used a company credit card to charge off more than 600 personal expenses, including a vacation to Aruba and visits to an orthodontist.

Anthony Bagnuola, the assistant United States attorney who is prosecuting the case, wrote in an April 2 letter to the U.S. Probation Office that the radio station's losses were around $285,377, plus the legal expenses it is incurring while the case makes its way through the court system — which could be added to the final restitution Ms. Bitis will have to pay.

While Ms. Bitis offered legitimate explanations for $17,207 of the fraudulent charges, originally estimated at over $300,000, ultimately she could be responsible for as much as $550,000, Mr. Bagnuola said in the letter.

Ms. Bitis's defense attorney, Thomas Kenniff, maintains, however, that the amount in question is $188,576. "The court adjourned the sentencing to give the parties an opportunity to arrive at a mutually agreeable figure that reflected the loss incurred by [the victim] and an amount my client would be able to repay," he said in an email to The Star. He declined to comment further.

According to John Marzulli, a federal public information officer, the final total of fraudulent charges will dictate Ms. Bitis's sentence. Above $250,000, the penalty is 24 to 30 months; if below that threshold, it is 18 to 24 months.

Mr. Bagnuola said in his April 2 letter that during the investigation, a similar pattern of fraudulent behavior also emerged while Ms. Bitis was employed by the New York City radio station WFAN, before she came to Long Island Radio Broadcasting, which operates WBAZ, WEHM, and WBEA out of Water Mill, in 2015.

Last Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Gary R. Brown adjourned  sentencing until June 7 to give the two sides time to hash out the final total for restitution. If they cannot come to an agreement, a court hearing will be scheduled.

Ms. Bitis now works as vice president of sales for Dan's Papers, which is owned by Schneps Media. She is a former member of the Sag Harbor School Board.

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