Crime

Ex-Whitley sheriff given 151⁄2 years in federal prison for theft, money laundering

Former Whitley County Sheriff Lawrence Hodge
Former Whitley County Sheriff Lawrence Hodge

LONDON — Former Whitley County Sheriff Lawrence Hodge has been sentenced to 15½ years in federal prison for stealing money, conspiring to launder money and conspiring to distribute drugs while in office.

U.S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove also ordered Hodge to forfeit $50,000 to the federal government and to pay Whitley County $64,897 in restitution to make up for money he stole.

Hodge has already started serving his sentence. Van Tatenhove ordered him jailed the day he pleaded guilty in May.

During a sentencing hearing Wednesday in federal court in London, Van Tatenhove noted that Hodge had faced some problems with addiction to prescription drugs, but that greed was the main reason for his downfall.

Hodge succumbed to temptations placed in his path by virtue of being a police officer, the judge said.

"We depend for the administration of justice ... for you to be able to say no" to those temptations, Van Tatenhove said.

Van Tatenhove said Hodge's crimes were particularly troubling because he violated his position of public trust.

Hodge, wearing leg chains and handcuffs, made no public statement during the hearing.

There is no parole in the federal court system, so Hodge, 52, will have to serve at least 85 percent of his 186-month sentence.

Hodge was elected sheriff in 2002 and served until the end of 2010 after being defeated in his bid for a third term.

While Hodge was Whitley County's top law-enforcement officer, he shook down drug dealers for pills in return for ignoring their illegal sales; stole money from his office; conspired to cover up the thefts; and used pain pills illegally, according to court records.

He also allegedly took cash payoffs from a drug dealer, according to court documents.

Hodge admitted to encouraging accused drug dealers to hire Williamsburg attorney Ron Reynolds to defend them, with the understanding that doing so would get them lenient treatment in court.

Reynolds kicked back part of his fees in the cases to Hodge, and Hodge went along with having charges reduced against the alleged drug dealers.

Reynolds charged a total of $257,000 to represent three accused dealers listed in court documents as being part of the scheme.

Hodge got $50,000 of that, plus another $50,000 in donations to his office from the three accused drug dealers.

Hodge also stole money from accounts in his office, including a fund that was supposed to be used for undercover drug purchases.

A former bookkeeper in his office, Abby Vicky Paul, admitted to conspiring with Hodge to embezzle money and to falsifying documents to cover the thefts.

Van Tatenhove sentenced Paul to six months in prison and six months on home detention, and he ordered her to pay $25,000 in restitution to the county.

Reynolds also pleaded guilty. Van Tatenhove sentenced him to 27 months in prison and ordered him to pay $199,500 to the federal government.

Hodge faces separate charges in state court of stealing about $350,000 from his office. He has pleaded not guilty in that case.

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