BY JULIE MANGANIS
---- — BEVERLY — An outraged judge told a Billerica woman yesterday that the only reason he wasn’t sending her to jail was so that she would be able to repay her elderly victim for the jewelry and heirlooms she had stolen from a Hamilton home.
“This is one of those cases where if the Commonwealth asked for 21/2 (years) followed by 21/2, followed by 21/2, I wouldn’t hesitate,” Judge Matthew Machera told Gina Masella, 30. “You not only took advantage of the victim in this case, you took advantage of someone who showed kindness to you.”
Masella pleaded guilty yesterday to charges of receiving stolen property after admitting that she fenced items stolen from the home of a Hamilton woman who had taken her, her child and her boyfriend, Michael DeFort, into her home when they had no other place to go back in 2011.
The victim was a friend of DeFort’s mother.
But soon, the woman noticed that items were missing from the home: heirloom silver, her own wedding silver, and most of her jewelry. Prosecutors estimated the total value of the loss at about $50,000.
Some of the items had been in her family since the 18th century, and some commemorated the family’s service in the Marines during wartime — something Machera took great offense to yesterday.
“We have Marines fighting and dying for the rights you have today to go to trial before a jury,” Machera said.
Masella spoke up, and before her attorney, Mark Barry, could stop her, she told the judge, “If I may, the other party was the one that removed the property from the house. I just pawned it.”
That’s been a bone of contention in the case for months, since her boyfriend was never charged. Barry said his client has been cooperating with investigators, but that only she and the owner of the Beverly pawn shop where she was paid $8,000 for the items were charged.
George Maroskos, the owner of JGM Numismatics in Beverly, was sitting in the courtroom yesterday. He is under a court order to pay $10,000 in restitution, after he was found guilty of hindering police as they searched for the missing items. He will now share that obligation with Masella; together, they will have to repay the $10,000.
Prosecutor Alex Grimes asked that Masella serve six months in jail time, with the rest of a two-year term suspended. But Masella’s lawyer argued successfully to keep Masella out of jail so that she can keep working to pay her share of the restitution.
He said Masella’s actions were driven by addiction.
Since the incident and the charges, Masella has done “substantial work” in dealing with an alcohol problem, he said. She’s now a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, said the lawyer, and is building a life for herself and her 6-year-old son.
“Is this how you honor being a mother to your son, by robbing this woman blind?” asked Machera, who went on to ask how Masella would feel if someone had done something similar to her mother.
“I stand before you 100 percent humbled,” said a tearful Masella.
Machera sentenced her to a total of 51/2 years in jail, but suspended all of the sentences for as long as she complies with conditions of probation, including paying restitution, submitting to random alcohol and drug tests, and having no contact with the victim, over the next three years.
“This is your last chance,” the judge warned.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.