FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE MOTION FOR REHEARING AND
DISPOSITION THEREOF IF FILED
from the Circuit Court for Brevard County, Morgan Laur
Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Rebecca Rock
McGuigan, Assistant Attorney General, Daytona Beach, for
S. Purdy, Public Defender, and Ailene S. Rogers, Assistant
Public Defender, Daytona Beach, for Appellee.
State appeals Sarah Marie Hollinger's downward departure
sentence for the lesser-included offense of second-degree
grand theft of $20, 000 to $100, 000, twelve counts of
depositing a check with intent to defraud, and eight counts
of uttering a forged instrument. The State argues that the
trial court's finding that the offenses were committed in
an unsophisticated manner and constituted an isolated
incident for which the defendant has shown remorse is not
supported by substantial, competent evidence. We agree.
in her capacity as the victim's business office manager,
wrote petty checks from the victim's Resident Trust
Account, presented them to her bosses for their signatures,
and then deposited them into her own bank account for her
personal use. Hollinger acknowledged that she did not get
petty cash in the normal course of her position and she was
not authorized to write petty cash checks to herself.
Hollinger repeated this process over the course of several
months, stealing more than $50, 000 from the victim.
Hollinger testified she did not attempt to cover her tracks.
The victim impact statement admitted into evidence, however,
indicated that the Resident Trust Checkbook and the
victim's copies of the written checks were missing after
Hollinger resigned. The victim had to obtain copies of the
cleared checks from the bank.
was originally charged with one count of organized fraud
($50, 000 or more), a first-degree felony, eight counts of
uttering a forged instrument, and twenty-nine counts of
depositing a check with intent to defraud, all third-degree
felonies. In exchange for her guilty pleas to the reduced
charge of second-degree grand theft, twelve counts of
depositing a check with intent to defraud, and eight counts
of uttering a forged instrument, the State agreed to nolle
pros seventeen counts of depositing a check with intent to
defraud and to recommend a three-year cap on incarceration to
be followed by probation.
Hollinger scored a minimum of twenty-four months in the
Department of Corrections, over the State's objection,
the trial court sentenced Hollinger to ten years'
probation for grand theft and five years' of concurrent
probation for the remaining charges. The trial court found
that Hollinger met the criteria for a downward departure
under section 921.0026(2)(j), Florida Statutes (2016),
because the "[t]he offense was committed in an
unsophisticated manner and was an isolated incident for which
the defendant has shown remorse." Hollinger had the
burden to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that
there were facts to support all three elements. See State
v. Weaver, 23 So.3d 829, 830 (Fla. 5th DCA 2009);
State v. Subido, 925 So.2d 1052, 1057 (Fla. 5th DCA
trial court found that the crimes were isolated because they
constituted a single scheme and Hollinger has no prior
record. The trial court next determined that the crimes were
unsophisticated because Hollinger took no measures to protect
herself or to hide her actions or identity. Finally, the
trial court found that Hollinger demonstrated remorse by
continuing on a course to mitigate the damage to the victims.
Although we do not disturb the trial court's finding of
remorse,  we conclude that the record does not
support a finding that the crimes were committed in an
unsophisticated manner and were isolated.
generally define 'unsophisticated' as the opposite of
'sophisticated, ' which in turn is defined as
'having acquired worldly knowledge or refinement; lacking
in natural simplicity or naiveté.'" State
v. Salgado, 948 So.2d 12, 16-17 (Fla. 3d DCA 2006)
(quoting Staffney v. State, 826 So.2d 509, 512 (Fla.
4th DCA 2004)). In assessing sophistication, courts have
considered evidence of "several distinctive and
deliberate steps." State v. Fureman, 161 So.3d
403, 405 (Fla. 5th DCA 2014) (quoting Salgado, 948
So.2d at 18; Staffney, 826 So.2d at 512). A crime
lacks sophistication if the acts constituting the crime are
"artless, simple and not refined."
Salgado, 948 So.2d at 509 (quoting
Staffney, 826 So.2d at 509).
Hollinger likens the facts of her case to the facts in
State v. Joseph, 922 So.2d 393 (Fla. 3d DCA 2006),
the two are clearly distinguishable. In Joseph, the
defendant kept a duplicate deposit made by a client into the
defendant's trust account. 922 So.2d at 394. The client
did not discover that it made a duplicate deposit until a
year later. Id. The defendant kept the money and
used it for personal and business obligations and was unable
to return the funds once the client made the discovery.
Id. The trial court determined that the offense was
unsophisticated, finding that the defendant "looked at
it as found money . . . [the check] came to him and then he
cashed it." Id.
instant case, the victim did not accidentally deposit the
money into Hollinger's bank account. Instead, for several
months Hollinger used her position of trust with the company
to repeatedly obtain signatures on fraudulent checks in order
to take the money for her own use. This certainly involved
several distinctive and deliberate steps that she repeated on
numerous occasions. Although Hollinger may not have taken
elaborate steps to hide her actions, the victim impact
statement indicated that she made some effort to conceal her
actions by taking the checkbook and copies of the cleared
checks with her. Based on these facts, we conclude that the
offenses were not committed in an unsophisticated manner.
whether the offenses were isolated, there is no bright-line
rule for deciding whether an offense is an isolated incident.
State v. Waterman, 12 So.3d 1265, 1268 (Fla. 4th DCA
2009) (citing State v. Gaines,971 So.2d 219, 221
(Fla. 4th DCA 2008)). In this case, it is undisputed that
Hollinger has no prior criminal history. However, a crime is
not necessarily considered to be isolated merely because a
party has no criminal history. See State v.
Strawser, 921 So.2d 705, 707 (Fla. 4th DCA 2006)
(finding offense could not be isolated where there were
multiple incidents involving one victim over period of
several months); see also Bellamy v. State, 199
So.3d 480, 483 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016) ("An offense also is
not isolated if involves multiple incidents." (citing
Strawser, 921 So.2d at 707)); State v.
Walters, 12 So.3d 298 (Fla. 3d DCA 2009) (finding acts