BALLSTON SPA -- Stephen Anderson wanted to be on a Caribbean beach with his wife at his side and a drink in his hand; instead they spent their honeymoon in Bar Harbor, Maine.
“It wasn’t St. Lucia, but it was still a really nice time,” the Watervliet veterinary technician said.
The reason for the change in destination: Anderson booked the trip to Sandals Resort in St. Lucia through Anna Marie Perrotti.
The former Halfmoon travel agent was sentenced Thursday to 1 1/3 to 4 years in state prison, after she failed to come up with nearly $50,000 in restitution for stealing from customers like Anderson and his wife, Erin, who went to Perrotti’s Sand Dollar Travel Agency on Route 9 last year on the recommendation of a co-worker.
“I honestly wasn't expecting any restitution, so I feel it's a little selfish to say that I’m glad she’s getting the jail time and justice was served, but I’m glad she’s getting jail time,” Anderson said.
Perrotti, 48, of Clifton Park, pleaded guilty to third-degree grand larceny, a felony, on April 12. At the time, she was ordered to either pay $47,684 in restitution or serve the prison sentence. Had she paid, she would have been sentenced to six months in county jail and five years of probation.
“If this had been a one-time mistake, I think we could have understood it,” said Judge James Murphy III in imposing the sentence in Saratoga County Court. “But to go on and on and on, and then get deeper and deeper into it, becomes very callous and uncaring and, I think, very concerning.”
Perrotti said she was remorseful before she was taken out of court in handcuffs.
“I just want to reach out to every victim and say I'm very, very truly sorry for what has happened,” she said.
Murphy said he believed her, “but the time to be sorry would have been long before today.”
Stephen Anderson said Perrotti’s apology “felt very insincere.”
Her attorney, Elizabeth Conley, asked the judge Thursday for a restitution hearing, to which Assistant District Attorney Steven Kessler objected and Murphy denied, saying Perrotti agreed to pay $47,684 as part of the plea deal.
“My client is offering to not have the victims be out money … she just disputes the amount,” Conley said. “It’s obvious that she had circumstances by which she wasn’t able to come up with the full amount of the money.”
Conley objected to requests to cover the sentencing by The Daily Gazette and two other news outlets, saying, “Miss Perrotti has three young children, and this has severely impacted their lives.” Murphy overruled the objection.
A state police investigation found Perrotti took in about $350,000 from customers but failed to make the travel reservations that money was supposed to buy, according to District Attorney Karen Heggen. Troopers received more than 50 complaints from customers — including newlyweds like the Andersons, wedding planners and cruise seekers — who paid Perrotti in full before learning no travel arrangements had been made. She stole from her customers between December 2014 and August 2016.
Anderson told reporters after court that they lost $400 in the ordeal: the amount they paid Perrotti in cash for a deposit.
They were able to get back $1,200 they paid Perrotti for the flight because they used a credit card, as well as $600 they believe Perrotti stole from Erin Anderson’s bank account.
When they asked Perrotti about the missing $600, Perrotti said her bank account had been hacked, Anderson said.
“She was pretty scatterbrained,” he said.
They learned of Perrotti’s failure to follow through after hearing about her arrest in September and calling the resort and airline: no stay or flight had been booked.
“It’s one of those special occasions that, really, you should be able to do anything and everything you want, and to have that taken from me was very unfair,” Stephen Anderson said.
After marrying in September, Stephen and Erin Anderson planned on vacationing in St. Lucia in January. They moved their trip up to October after losing the money and deciding on the less-costly destination of Bar Harbor, Maine, another place they had never been.
For Anderson, booking the trip through Perrotti was his first time going to a travel agent -- and probably his last, he said.
“I work on my feet all day; I love what I do,” he said. “Nobody goes into my field for the money, and to have that taken away from me — it’s rough. It’s something that is going to be with me for the rest of my life.”