BEDFORD — A Bedford woman pleaded guilty Tuesday to embezzling around $100,000 from her grandchildren by taking the payout from their father’s life insurance policy.

Frances Milazzo Ireland, 71, wept and gasped as she apologized to her two grandchildren in Bedford Circuit Court before being sentenced.

“I’m sorry. I don’t know what happened,” she said.

Court documents state David Peter Ireland designated his two children, currently aged 15 and 19, as beneficiaries in his life insurance policy. In late November 2014, about two months after he died, his mother received more than $100,000 as custodian of the funds, since his oldest daughter Skyler was still a minor at the time.

Bedford Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Ayers said Frances Ireland opened bank accounts in her grandchildren’s names and used the money from her son’s policy “to support her own gambling habit.”

Taking the witness stand, both teens and their mother all asked for some jail time for Ireland. Their mother, Jessica Reynolds, said Ireland hasn’t shown remorse for what happened or repaid any of the money. Documents in a civil case to recover the payout money, which was filed soon after Ireland’s eldest grandchild turned 18 in August 2017, state Ireland never provided any accounting of the life insurance funds when requested to do so.

Bedford Circuit Court Judge James Updike signed off on a default judgment in favor of the grandchildren in November 2017, ordering the money to be repaid in civil court. Because of that, Ayers said she couldn’t order Ireland to pay back her grandchildren in the form of criminal restitution. Ayers asked for a five-year suspended sentence for Ireland with three years of supervised probation.

Court records indicate Ireland was first charged and arrested in September.

Webster Hogeland, who represented Ireland, said she admitted to her gambling problem and lost everything she had. He added her husband had nothing to do with what happened.

Ireland intends to pay her grandchildren back, he said.

Updike said that in 41 years working in the courthouse, he has found there’s usually a good reason for terms in a plea agreement. Before signing off on the plea agreement, he said he understands the victims might feel Ireland’s sentence isn’t enough.

Though judgment has been entered favoring her grandchildren, the civil cases involving Ireland are still open. The attorney representing Ireland’s grandchildren couldn’t be reached Tuesday.

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Rachel Mahoney covers courts for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5554.

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