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FARMINGTON — A Layton military couple awarded $10,000 worth of free groceries within days of appearing in court on theft charges has pleaded guilty.
Nicholas Mannino, 37, and his wife, Stephanie Mannino, 34, were each charged in 2nd District Court last year with a single count of theft, a second-degree felony. Nicholas Mannino pleaded guilty to the charge Thursday, while his wife entered a guilty plea on April 5.
According to court documents filed as the Manninos entered their respective plea deals, the two admitted that while Stephanie Mannino was working as a cashier at Kohl's department store in Layton in December 2016, her husband brought merchandise through her register that she either failed to ring up or rang up and then deleted. Nicholas Mannino then left the store with the merchandise.
When Stephanie Mannino was interviewed, she "admitted they had been stealing from the Kohl's store since the end of November 2016" and that "they had stolen over $5,000 worth of merchandise," plea documents state. Law enforcement recovered the merchandise from the family's home and verified it was worth more than $5,000.
As part of her plea deal, Stephanie Mannino is eligible to have the conviction reduced two steps, down to a class A misdemeanor, if she successfully completes probation. The plea deal states that if she is sentenced to jail, she will serve no more than 60 days.
Nicholas Mannino was ordered to pay full restitution in the case and is also eligible for a two-step reduction of his conviction if he completes probation, according to his plea deal. He may serve a stipulated 30-day jail sentence "depending on full acceptance of responsibility," plea documents state.
An additional note on the plea form indicates that no charges will be filed in connection with an unspecified fraud investigation as part of the deal.
A sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 31.
Almost nine months after the charges were filed and within days of a scheduled court appearance in the case, the couple was honored in November with $10,000 worth of free groceries from Operation Homefront, an organization that "assists military families during difficult financial times," according to its website.
At the time the Manninos were selected for the grocery award, the website stated that applying to the program did not typically include a criminal background check.
Nicholas Mannino received several awards while serving as an infantryman in the U.S. Army for six years. He retired in 2007 as a corporal. Stephanie Mannino is a member of Hearts of Valor, a support program for caregivers of wounded, ill or injured service members, and was nominated for the assistance.
Local media was invited to meet the Manninos as they were presented the award and shopped for groceries.
In a statement released when the Deseret News reported on the couple's criminal case, Operation Homefront officials said they were "saddened" to learn about the charges.
"We selected this family of eight as they were struggling to get by on a very limited disability income and we felt they would benefit greatly from this basic support made possible through the extraordinary generosity of our long-time partner Eckrich," the statement said.
Because the charges were pending at the time, officials said they would wait until the case was concluded before determining whether to award the remaining funds in the grocery giveaway.