SOMERSET - A Somerset woman was sentenced on Tuesday to serve 21 months to 60 months in state prison in connection with the theft of more than $189,800 in money and items from a lawn care company that once employed her, authorities said. Somerset County President Judge D. Gregory Geary sentenced Shannon Lyn Mitchell, 42, of the 100 block of Shady Oak Circle, after she had earlier pleaded guilty to three felony counts of theft by unlawful taking. State police in Somerset filed three criminal complaints. Troopers said Mitchell was hired in 2009 as secretary for Bowlby’s Lawn Service in Somerset Township. According to the complaints, business owners said they confronted Mitchell about unauthorized transactions that she had made from 2013 until 2018, but she made excuses, “claiming a mix-up in the accounts.” After Mitchell quit her job in 2018, two part-time secretaries were hired and they found errors in the QuickBooks accounting system, the complaints said. Mitchell allegedly made more than $6,000 in unauthorized transactions with the company’s American Express card and forged 79 checks, totaling $175,819, the complaints said. Mitchell allegedly charged $7,988 with the company’s Sheetz gas card. Somerset Trust Co. officials assisted in an audit of the checking and credit cards accounts. They discovered that Mitchell had allegedly forged two checks totaling $4,100 that belonged to Somerset Trust Co. “There are many people in the court room, not the least of which is me, who wonder why in the world you did this?” Geary said. Mitchell said she forged checks because she was having financial trouble. “I had gotten away with it for a long time period of time, it snow balled,” she said. “Once I was in so deep I didn’t know how to get out of it. I’m very sorry.” “One of the hardest things I have to do as a judge is to gauge the character of the person standing before me,” said Geary. The judge told Mitchell that her pattern of behavior showed that she has no respect for the property rights of others. Julie Bowlby, the daughter-in-law of the owners, told the court that Mitchell’s plan to steal from the business was well thought out and that she tried to cover her tracks. Mitchell, who represented herself in court, asked the judge for additional time before going to state prison. The judge denied the motion and sheriff’s deputies led her away in handcuffs.