, Corbin, KY

Whitley County Sheriff Investigation

May 13, 2011

Hodge Pleads Guilty to Federal Charges

Admits to extorting money, laundering money, distributing drugs. Sentence of over 15 years suggested.

CORBIN — May 13, 2011.pdf

By Carl Keith Greene/Staff Writer

Deputy U.S. Marshals handcuffed and removed what former Whitley County Sheriff Lawrence Hodge had in his pockets before they led him from a federal courtroom in London Thursday.

Hodge, 51, had pleaded guilty to three counts in an information issued by the U.S. Attorney’s office.

In a plea agreement, Hodge admitted extorting money, distributing drugs and laundering money.

It suggests a sentence of 15 years and six months, and $50,000 restitution.

Sentencing by Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove is set for 2:30 p.m. Aug. 25.

The information, filed Thursday, charges in the first count that between June 2004 and July 2, 2007, Hodge conspired to “obstruct, delay and affect ... commerce in the movement of articles and commodities in commerce by extortion.”

The 10-page plea agreement states that during that period, Hodge conspired with a Williamsburg criminal defense lawyer to extort funds from criminal defendants.

He admitted on three occasions that he encouraged criminal defendants to seek lawyer Ron Reynolds for representation and Reynolds suggested to his clients that they make donations to the Whitley County Sheriff’s Department.

Reynolds charged the three defendants $160,000, $72,000 and $25,000, totalling $257,000 to represent them in court.

Reynolds paid Hodge at least $50,000 for the referrals.

Reynolds pleaded guilty in March to charges for his roll in the extortion plan.

The second count of the information charges that beginning in 2003 and continuing through the year 2010, Hodge was a user of controlled substances without proper prescriptions.

He got illegal prescription pills from drug traffickers in the area during that time.

Because they provided him the drugs he allowed them to operate in the county.

The third count charges that he conspired with a former clerk/bookkeeper of the sheriff’s office.

The plea agreement states that from Jan. 1, 2003 and July 2008, Hodge and the clerk/bookkeeper embezzled and laundered a total of about $64,897.

The maximum penalty for count one is 20 years, a $250,000 fine and three years supervised release.

Count two’s maximum penalty is 20 years, a $1 million fine and at least three years supervised release and count three’s maximum penalty is also 20 years, a $500,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

Hodge also faces state charges in Whitley County Circuit Court and a pretrial conference is set for Tuesday.

Whitley County Commonwealth’s Attorney Allen Trimble couldn’t be reached for comment.

An information is a document charging crimes issued by U.S. Attorney offices in lieu of an indictment which must be returned by a grand jury.

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