Woman asks to withdraw plea

YOUNGSTOWN – A woman who was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2007 for stealing more than $1 million from her employer asked Friday to withdraw her guilty plea.

Lawyers for Deborah Toda, 55, filed the motion Friday before Mahoning County Common Pleas Court Judge Maureen Sweeney.

Toda, of Howland, pleaded guilty to theft, laundering and other charges, and received a 25-year sentence from Sweeney in March 2007. Her boyfriend, Paul Pollis, whose wife Charlotte Nagi-Pollis of Girard disappeared in 1994, also was arrested, but he cooperated with prosecutors and charges in the case against him were dropped. He received an 18-month sentence from Trumbull County Common Pleas Court for violating his probation.

The charges stem from allegations that the pair stole money from a branch of the North Central Pennsylvania Dialysis Clinic in Boardman over a two-year period that began in 2004. At the time, Toda, a bookkeeper, had been on federal probation for similar charges in 2001.

Toda’s attorneys said in their motion that her lawyer at the time was ineffective, prosecutors did not honor an agreement to stand silent at sentencing, and she did not say she understood when asked about what the potential maximum sentence was.

”The performance of trial counsel was so ineffective it prejudiced Ms. Toda, violating her constitutional rights to due process of law,” her lawyers wrote. ”Had Ms. Toda been appropriately informed, the result of the case would have been different.”

Toda received a sentence of 25 years from Sweeney for the charges of aggravated grand theft, forgery, money laundering and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.

Her motion states that the total sentences are five years short of the maximum, something her attorneys at the time never told her. Her motion says she was advised that if she forfeited her assets she would only receive a sentence of three years.

”Ms. Toda would not have pleaded guilty if she knew the judge had the authority to impose a maximum 30-year sentence. She would have gone to trial,” her motion states.

Police say she spent the money on an expensive, cars, and trips to Europe, among other things.

Pollis was on probation at the time for a carrying a concealed weapons charge in Trumbull County for confronting the Howland police chief at the chief’s home in May 2005.

His former wife has never been found.