By AMY LINDBLOM
A Sonora woman convicted of stealing an elderly woman's life savings will spend the next four years in prison.
Sabrina Pestoni, 23, pleaded guilty to theft during a pre-trial hearing Monday in Tuolumne County Superior Court.
Pestoni had been charged with one count of theft from an elder and one count of furnishing prescription drugs without a license.
Assistant District Attorney Michael Knowles dropped the drug charge in exchange for the plea on the theft. Had Pestoni been convicted of both counts, she could have faced seven years in prison.
Pestoni must also pay her victim 65-year-old Brunhilde Overstreet of Jamestown the $49,400 she stole.
Pestoni still insists she is innocent, but entered a "West plea" so she can take advantage of a better deal on her sentence, said Tuolumne County Deputy Public Defender Clay Bedford.
"She has a 5-year-old daughter, and she wanted to make sure she was out in four years rather than taking a chance on going to prison for seven years," Bedford said.
"Personally, I have my doubts she is guilty. I think the sheriff's department could have investigated bank records of other people who could have stolen the money." Bedford would not elaborate on the comment.
Since her Aug. 26 arrest, Pestoni has been held at the Tuolumne County Jail in lieu of $50,000 bail. Sentencing is set for Monday, Dec. 1.
Pestoni worked this spring for Overstreet, who lives alone in a Jamestown house with her dog Sparky. Pestoni cleaned the older woman's house and took her on errands and to doctor's appointments.
Overstreet had been looking for help around the house after undergoing heart surgery. A man who delivered oxygen to her house recommended his daughter, Pestoni.
Pestoni worked for several months, proclaimed her devotion, and often brought her daughter with her to clean house, Overstreet said.