Crime

Former Perry judge-executive pleads guilty to mail fraud

A former Perry County judge-executive pleaded guilty Wednesday in a federal vote-fraud case.

Sherman Neace admitting he mailed false campaign-spending reports to a state agency in an attempt to hide a vote-buying scheme, according to a court document. He pleaded guilty to mail fraud.

Neace, who is in his late 60s, faces a maximum sentence of 20 years. He is to be sentenced March 18.

Neace was charged with helping hijack $7,500 the state Democratic Party gave the Perry County party to promote voter turnout in the November 2008 general election.

The indictment said Neace and Chester Jones, the head of the Perry County Democratic Party at the time, instead used the money to buy votes for themselves.

Neace was running for magistrate last year and Jones, a longtime circuit clerk and former state representative, was running for a school-board seat.

Jones had 75 checks for $100 each issued with the recipient line left blank, and then he and Neace passed them out to bribe voters, according to the indictment.

Neace admitted he distributed checks under the guise of hiring people to do election work, when in fact he didn't expect them to actually do any work, according to his plea agreement.

Neace and Jones tried to cover the scheme with fake labor contracts the check recipients signed, saying they would work for 10 hours at $10 an hour on jobs such as driving voters to the polls, according to court documents.

Neace served three terms as judge-executive before losing re-election in 1998. He also operated a used-car lot.

In 2000, he was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison for selling used cars to the county at inflated prices while he was judge-executive.

Jones is scheduled for trial in January.

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