NORRISTOWN, Pa. (CBS) – A former travel agent from Abington, Montgomery County, has gotten five years’ probation but no jail time after ripping off customers who booked an African safari with her through the St. Louis Zoo nearly four years ago.

Judge Richard Hodgson told 68-year-old grandmother Frances Balshan that she would be going to jail if not for her failing health since he didn’t want to stick the taxpayers of Montgomery County with the burden of paying that bill.

Balshan pleaded guilty last year to stealing $169,000 from 32 people who contracted with her through the St. Louis Zoo (see previous story).

Montgomery County prosecutor Tracey Potere was looking for jail time.

“Most (of the victims) had saved up their life savings to go on a trip of a lifetime, and had it not been for a benefactor that stepped in, they would not have been able to go on the trip,” Potere said today after the sentencing.

Balshan, who had no real explanation for where the money went, told the judge she was a bad businesswoman who had terrible judgment and was under the influence of prescription drugs for various ailments.  She was ordered to pay back the money, but everyone agreed that likely will never happen.

Reported by Brad Segall, KYW Newsradio 1060.

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