CORBIN — May 20, 2011.pdf
By Becky Killian / Managing Editor
A bookkeeper for former Whitley County Sheriff Lawrence Hodge said Hodge began taking money his first year in office and admitted she altered the books to conceal the missing money.
Abby Vicky Paul, 51, pleaded guilty Thursday to felony embezzlement while in London’s U.S. District Court before U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove.
Paul’s guilty plea was entered one week after Hodge’s appearance in federal court where he pleaded guilty to money laundering, extortion and drug distribution charges.
Paul opted to waive her right to have evidence presented to a grand jury and instead signed a plea agreement in which she acknowledged helping Hodge embezzle or launder $222,914 from several different sheriff’s accounts between 2003 and 2008. She also admitted to helping Hodge embezzle about $58,480 from the office’s fee account.
When asked to explain what she did, Paul said she and another sheriff’s office employee, Kendra McKiddy, noted there was missing money from the office’s accounts.
“The first year he was in [office] it started happening,” Paul said.
Paul said when she and McKiddy confronted the sheriff, he told them “to fix the books.”
Paul said she would conceal stolen property tax money by recording discounted tax payments when, in fact, the full amount had been collected.
“It just kept snowballing,” Paul said. “It was ‘just fix it, fix it, fix that report.’”
Paul said Hodge would take 50 percent of the excess money and she and McKiddy would split the remaining amount.
Court documents indicate that Hodge’s police cruiser burned in a fire at his home in 2007. Paul admitted she and Hodge used the fire as an alibi for having tax account records destroyed.
Paul also said she helped Hodge take money from the department’s drug and alcohol fund. Although the fund is supposed to be used for law enforcement activities like controlled drug buys, Paul said she knew Hodge was using the checks she wrote to him from the account to buy drugs for his own use or for other personal expenses.
To cover the deficits, Paul said Hodge allowed her to shift money from the department’s fee account to both the tax and drug and alcohol accounts.
The plea agreement calls for a maximum prison sentence of 10 years followed by a maximum three years of supervised release. It also calls for a fine of not more than $250,000 and Paul agreed to pay $25,000 in restitution to the Whitley County government.
Van Tatenhove explained to Paul that the recommended sentence is advisory, not binding, and that if he were to decide a longer sentence was appropriate Paul could not use that as a reason to withdraw her guilty plea.
Van Tatenhove also told Paul that there is no parole in the federal prison system and that she should expect to serve a “majority” of the sentence handed down to her.
While in court, Paul detailed her work history, saying she worked for the Whitley County treasurer in 1981.
Van Tatenhove also asked Paul about her prescription drug use. Among the prescription drugs Paul said she routinely takes are hydrocodone and muscle relaxers for back and shoulder pain, a sleep aid, an antidepressant and a medication for acid reflux.
Prior to Paul pleading guilty, U.S. Attorney W. Samuel Dotson told Van Tatenhove that Paul had suffered memory problems during past discussions, though he said prompts tend to help her recall ability. All parties agreed Paul’s memory problems — which Paul said may be associated with a thyroid condition — did not impact her competency.
Paul, who waived the right to appeal, was released on an unsecured bond. She is set to be sentenced Sept. 1.
The announcement was made jointly by Kerry B. Harvey, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky; Paul J. Vido, Special Agent in Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Elizabeth A. Fries, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Darryl Williams, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service.
The joint investigation was conducted by the ATF, FBI and IRS. Those agencies were assisted by the Kentucky State Police, the Williamsburg Police Department, Crit Luallen’s Office for the Auditor of Public Accounts and Whitley County Commonwealth’s Attorney Allen Trimble’s Office.