TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

September 29, 2011

Hodge sentenced

Former Whitley sheriff receives 15 years, six months


The Times-Tribune

CORBIN — Sept. 29, 2011.pdf

By Carl Keith Greene / Staff Writer

Lawrence Hodge, 52, former Whitley County sheriff, entered Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove’s federal courtroom at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday in an olive drab jumpsuit.

Once the case was called, Hodge’s lawyer, Brent L. Caldwell, and Assistant U.S. Attorney William Samuel Dotson discussed with Van Tatenhove an earlier written binding plea agreement.

Based on the plea agreement, Van Tatenhove imposed the sentence of 15 years and six months.

The sentence was imposed on each of the three counts in an information filed on May 12.

The three sentences will be concurrent.

He also ordered that Hodge pay restitution of $64,897 and also a $50,000 forfeiture be made.

The restitution is to be made to Whitley County to repay the money embezzled by him and his clerk/bookkeeper. The forfeiture is called for in the information as part of the penalty.

Hodge will be able to make $25 payments quarterly or if he works in the prison the minimum will be $60 per quarter.

Van Tatenhove spoke from the bench, saying “one of our community has let us down.”

The judge added, “A person before me has fallen, out of greed.”

“Theft is theft from all of us, in terms of your greed,” Van Tatenhove said, adding that it is a long sentence, “and it needs to be a long sentence. We’re going to detain you, detain you because it has affected the community. This is a just punishment.”

Hodge had pleaded guilty to three counts of an information on May 13.

The first count charged him with committing extortion while serving as sheriff. Count two charged him with distributing oxycodone and the third conspiring to commit money laundering.

Hodge had conspired with lawyer Ron Reynolds, a defense attorney in Whitley County, between 2004 and 2007.

In the conspiracy, they extorted money from those arrested by the Whitley Sheriff’s office who were charged with a  felony. He had referred criminal defendants to Reynolds to be represented.

Reynolds also suggested the same clients make forfeiture payments and/or cash donations to the Sheriff’s department and the department got more than $55,000 in the scheme.

Hodge also said he conspired over seven years with drug dealers in the county to distribute prescription pills including oxycodone.

He admitted that he was addicted to prescription tablets and got some for personal use.

And Hodge agreed that he conspired with the former bookkeeper for the sheriff’s office to embezzle and launder the $64,897 (mentioned earlier in this story), funds belonging to the office.

The money was supposed to be used in making drug purchases, paying informants and other law enforcement needs.

“It is a sad day for law enforcement when a person of trust allows greed to cause him to disregard the oath he swore to uphold, and betray the trust and confidence of the people who elected him,” said Paul J. Vido, special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Joining with him were U.S. Attorney in eastern Kentucky Kerry B. Harvey, FBI Special Agent in charge Elizabeth A. Fries and Christopher R. Pikelis, special agent in charge of the Internal Revenue Service.

Vido continued, the “Kentucky law enforcement community will not tolerate such criminal behavior. This case was an example of how ATF and its federal, state and local law enforcement partners work together toward a common goal.”

Assisting in the investigation were Kentucky State Police, the Williamsburg Police Department, the Whitley County Commonwealth’s Attorney and Kentucky’s Auditor of Public Accounts.