DALLAS — Heather Mounce will serve 75 months in prison on the charges she pleaded guilty to on Sept.9.
Polk County Circuit Court Judge Norm Hill issued Mounce’s sentence Thursday afternoon following statements made by her victims and supporters.
Mounce, a former Dallas resident, pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated first-degree theft, 12 counts of identity theft and one count of first-degree theft — all felonies.
The defendant was indicted on 98 counts of identity theft, theft, and criminal mistreatment in July 2018. Of those, 51 counts have been severed and will be tried as a different case in October. A year before the indictment was issued, Mounce was the subject of a multi-day missing person search which ended with U.S. Coast Guard rescuing her from a cliff near Florence.
At Mounce’s sentencing hearing, Liz and Mark Weisensee — owners of OpenRoad Transportation, one of three businesses that were Mounce’s victims — said Mounce should be incarcerated to keep others from falling victim to her schemes.
Liz Weisensee said they gave her a second chance after catching her first attempt at submitting a fraudulent invoice for reimbursement.
“She promised over and over again that it was the first thing that she had done, and that she would never steal from anyone,” Liz Weisensee said. “This is just more evidence that she is completely untruthful to anyone and everyone. It is dictated by whatever she is needing at the time.”
Liz Weisensee said Mounce maintained an active social life, but said it was strategic, an effort to portray herself as a good mother and friend.
“She would mask herself as whoever she needed to be in order to fit in and connect,” Liz Weisensee said. “She worked hard to touch every part of our community, all of this going on while simultaneously stealing from many of us with no conscience and no empathy for any pain or damage she was causing to others, which was much more than the theft of money.”
She said because of Mounce’s initial fraud attempt, they used additional anti-theft measures.
“Because of this, we caught her early on enough to mitigate a catastrophe, but we fully understand the depths that she was intending to go to,” Liz Weisensee said. “We continue to use this person as a reminder of the malice that is possible in the world. She completely lacks empathy, but feeds off of the empathy of others. She uses doctors, counselors and others in credible positions to give her words merit.”
Mounce also used fraudulent documents on invoices while working for two other employers, Dallas Retirement Village and PNW Metal Recycling.
Dallas Retirement Village executive director David Parrett also asked the court to hold Mounce accountable.
“It is my desire that she have the full recognition just how much harm she has caused, and that she will grow and change,” Parrett said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, based on her repeated actions, I have doubts that she is truly remorseful for her actions and would likely repeat these crimes again, if given the opportunity.”
He said he hopes Mounce will be able to find a way to put her life back on track.
“I also believe that this court must make clear a firm message that these actions, her actions, will not be tolerated or simply forgotten,” he said.
Mounce’s daughter, Harlie Mounce, said the past two years have been difficult since her mother was rescued off a cliff in Florence after her crimes were reported to Dallas police. Her family has lost friends, and at times she and her brother feel they are being punished for their mom’s crimes, she said.
She said that Mounce was a good mother who protected her children from their abusive father.
“She pretended to be happy for me and my brother. She was always strong and positive about our life, when deep down I knew that it wasn’t OK. None of us were OK,” Harlie Mounce said. “I witnessed my dad beating my mom several times. My mom was a wife to a man who had the urge to hurt her.”
Harlie Mounce said she’s watched her mother grow and change with the help of counseling and the support of family.
“My mom is an amazing mom and is not the person people perceive her to be. What she has committed does not change the person that she is,” Harlie Mounce said. “My mom needs help getting mentally better, and I promise you every day that she is so sorry and she feels so much guilt for what she has done.”
Heather Mounce’s attorney Tim Park said the past abuse and mental illness was part of the reason she committed the thefts.
“What I hope you take from this, your honor, is that she’s not an evil person,” Park said. “She is someone that was trying to deal with a bad situation in the best way she could, and it got way out of hand.”
Mounce had her attorney read a statement and apology to the court.
“I never stole money with the intentions of hurting any of you. I cannot express the amount of guilt and shame I feel every day,” she wrote.
She thanked the Weisensees for taking the evidence of her thefts to the police because it gave her an opportunity to seek treatment.
“Without them, I might have still been stuck in a life still trying to survive at any and all costs,” she wrote. “Your actions forced me to seek help.”
Mounce asked Hill to take her attorney’s recommendation for probation so she can work to support her family and continue treatment. She said she struggles with thoughts of suicide.
“The thought of giving up and ending my life has been a very real reality for me. But I have not given up because I want DRV and OpenRoad to know how sorry I am,” she wrote. “I want to be able to have a chance to pay everything back.”
Deputy District Attorney Sarah Lundstedt asked Hill to impose a 101-month sentence. Lundstedt said Mounce’s abusive marriage ended at the end of 2015, before some of the crimes were committed. She also disputed Mounce’s claim that she was in a bad financial situation. Lundstedt said Mounce frequently went on vacations, out for drinks, to get massages, and to nail and eyebrow appointments.
“That’s different from the picture of a very desperate woman in financial trouble that she put forward in part of the sentencing memorandum,” she said.
Lundstedt said Mounce lied to investigators, telling them that what was reported by OpenRoad Transportation was the only incident.
“They really wanted to go to bat for her. They said she is coming forward. She’s honest. She’s told us everything,” she said. “Later when they found that she hadn’t told them everything, it was disappointing, to say the least.”
Hill said he didn’t believe probation was a sufficient sentence for her crimes. He said he rejected the state’s claim that the abuse wasn’t a factor in the defendant’s behavior. He said the damage caused by abuse doesn’t stop when the abuse ends.
“I also reject that argument because of the countless times that the state has stood right here in my courtroom in cases where they are prosecuting someone for domestic violence and have argued to the court that I should take into account that the effects of the abuse will extend long into the future,” he said.
Hill said abuse and mental illness weren’t a defense, however, and issued a sentence of 75 months.
“The defendant in this case deliberately set about to defraud three different employers going back to 2015. The circumstances of those thefts were not acts of impulse,” he said. “They were deliberate schemes that involved creation of false business documents. It was a deliberate disregard and taking advantage of the trust that was placed in her by her employers and by her co-workers, because I agree with Mrs. Weisensee that it put everybody’s jobs and well-being at risk. It was remarkably selfish.”
Hill revoked Mounce’s release agreement, and she was taken to the Polk County Jail after sentencing. He cited that he believed her to be a potential flight risk and could be a danger to herself.
Mounce’s upcoming trial involves crimes allegedly committed against her grandfather, Anthony Britt. The trial is scheduled for Oct. 15-17. She will be in court on Sept. 30 for a pretrial conference.