The former Mount Pleasant employee who stole more than $50,000 from the town while working there has been sentenced to five years in prison.

Candice Bottorff, 65, of Mount Pleasant, pleaded guilty earlier this week in a Charleston courtroom to embezzlement of public funds. Circuit Judge Roger Young sentenced her to five years in prison, ordered her to pay restitution and placed her on five years of probation. Bottorff has the potential of release from prison after serving three years behind bars, according to the state's sentencing rules.

But, her attorney, Guy Vitetta, said he didn't expect her to serve any time in prison.

"I was hoping they would place her on probation," Vitetta said. "I didn't think she was going to jail." Vitetta said Bottorff was cooperative and disclosed to town officials she'd been taking the money when they began an audit on the town's finances.

"We sat with them and told them anything," he said. "We hope we were able to help them in figuring everything out."

But during the hearing Monday, Mount Pleasant Town Administrator Eric DeMoura told the judge Bottorff caused damage to the public's trust in government. "We work hard to uphold the public's trust, and the act of this person damaged the reputation of the people who work for Mount Pleasant," he said. Bottorff, who worked for the town's human resources department for five years, stole $52,239, according to authorities.

Bottorff told Mount Pleasant police she deposited about $800 of the town's money each month into her personal checking account starting in January 2009, according to an affidavit. She got the money from monthly cash payments by retirees for insurance benefits, according to the affidavit.

Bottorff used the money she stole to pay bills, according to Vitetta. "She wasn't buying luxury items. She was having serious financial problems," he said. "She really has nothing to show for it."

Bottorff was fired from her position as a human-resources technician after the audit was performed by the town's finance department and an investigation by the police department, town leaders said.

DeMoura said since Bottorff's arrest, the town reviewed its internal policies. "They're very strong," he said. But despite the bests controls, he said, "if they really want to, bad enough, they can do it."

The retiree insurance benefits can no longer be paid in cash, according to DeMoura. Insurance is covering the loss, he said. Vitetta said Bottorff turned over her retirement money to the town, about $13,000, but she still owes the rest. Vitetta also said he has filed a request for the judge to reconsider his sentence.

Reach Natalie Caula Hauff at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.