Theft law changes could affect former Lexington airport director's case

jhewlett@herald-leader.comApril 15, 2010 

Former Blue Grass Airport executive director Michael Gobb, charged with nine counts of felony theft by deception, has asked Fayette Circuit Court to apply new and old laws in his case.

Under laws that took effect last year, the theft amount threshold for a charge of felony theft by deception increased to $500 from $300. In addition, stiffer penalties for a theft involving $10,000 or more became law last year. Previously, there was no dollar amount ceiling, and prison time for conviction of felony theft by deception ranged from one to five years. Now, when a theft involves $10,000 or more, the penalty range is five to 10 years.

In a motion filed this week, Gobb asked the court to order that the new $500 threshold apply in his case but not the new charge carrying the five-to 10-year sentence.

"I just want to get some guidance from the court to make sure we know which law we're dealing with in this case," said Gobb's attorney, Patrick Nash. "I'm confident which law it should be."

He said all of the counts against Gobb are referred to in his indictment by a grand jury as Class D felonies, each carrying a one- to five-year penalty. But he wants to make sure the new Class C felony, which carries a five- to 10-year sentence, cannot be applied.

Nash said both the $300 and $500 threshold figures were used in the grand jury indictment of Gobb.

Prosecutors have not publicly disclosed an amount thought to be fraudulent. According to Nash's motion, prosecutors have identified approximately $40,000 worth of expenditures made by Gobb "that may be considered fraudulent."

In October, Gobb and three former directors of the Lexington airport, John Coon, John Rhodes and John Slone, were indicted on felony theft charges pertaining to the expenditure of airport money over several years.

The Herald-Leader reported last year the top five leaders of the airport, including the four who were indicted, spent more than $530,000 on travel, meals, entertainment and other expenses from the beginning of 2006 through the end of 2008. Some of the criminal charges against the four stem from expenditures that occurred earlier than 2006.

Coon and Slone, who each were charged with one count of felony theft by deception, have pleaded guilty to lesser charges and are awaiting sentencing. Gobb's case and the case of Rhodes, who was charged with six counts of felony theft by deception, have not been resolved.

Reach Jennifer Hewlett at (859) 231-3308 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3308.

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