MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — The church clerk accused of swindling $1 million from the Archdiocese of New York is praying for a plea deal that will spare her a stiff sentence, her lawyer said Thursday.
Anita Collins, 67, is charged with skimming the cash while working as a bookkeeper in the education department — and using it to fund extravagant shopping sprees at Barney's New York and Bloomingdale's, prosecutors say.
"I don't believe she would survive six to 12 years in state prison," her lawyer, Howard Simmons, said outside court. "I'm looking for two to four."
When Collins was busted in January and police searched the Throgs Neck, Bronx home she shares with her daughter, they found it brimming with expensive clothes and jewelry, furniture and collectible handmade dolls, prosecutors said.
Hard time hasn't been nearly so plush.
The crooked clerk, who was convicted of stealing from two previous employers, appeared briefly before Justice Lewis Stone on Thursday morning looking significantly thinner than in January.
Collins, who is suspected of slowly embezzling the cash over seven years, has been held on Rikers Island in lieu of $750,000 bail.
"She's extremely depressed," Simmons said of the white-haired woman who reportedly attended daily Mass. "She's lost about 20 pounds already."
Simmons said Collins' adult daughter has stage-four cancer and is a big part of the reason she's hoping to strike a plea-bargain deal. But he also said the current offer on the table from the Manhattan District Attorney's office — a six-to-12 year sentence — would break her.
Collins is charged with grand larceny and falsifying business records, and faces a maximum of 25 years in prison if convicted.
During Thursday's hearing, Simmons presented dozens of letters of support from church community members, including one from a deacon, attesting to Collins' piety and good nature.
He also laid out an offer of restitution for $100,000 — cash he said had been raised by Collins' immediate family in a bid for leniency.
"Maybe when the amount's closer to a million," the judge quipped before setting a trail date for May 31.