Special Reports

Former airport officer pleads guilty to felony

Former Blue Grass Airport administration and finance director John S. Rhodes pleaded guilty Friday in Fayette Circuit Court to a felony charge of theft by deception.

The Commonwealth's Attorney's office recommended that he serve five years in prison. The prosecutor's office also recommended that five other felony theft by deception charges against Rhodes be dismissed.

The count to which Rhodes pleaded guilty involves his using an airport credit card issued in his name to buy items and/or services for personal use between Jan. 1, 2008, and Dec. 31, 2008.

Rhodes is one of four former officials of the airport who were indicted in October on felony charges of theft by deception after law enforcement agencies investigated spending at the airport for more than nine months.

In February 2009, state auditor Crit Luallen issued a report on her office's audit of airport spending. The report detailed more than $500,000 in undocumented and questionable expenses made by seven airport officials — including the four charged — from Jan. 1, 2006, through Dec. 31, 2008.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Andrea Williams said Friday that Rhodes has paid full restitution. She could not provide the total amount that Rhodes has reimbursed the airport, but airport officials have said previously that as of early August 2009, Rhodes had repaid the airport more than $21,000.

Sentencing has been set for June 11 in Fayette Circuit Court.

Rhodes and his attorney would not comment.

Last month, former airport planning and development director John P. Slone and former airport operations director John G. Coon accepted plea deals and pleaded guilty to one charge each of conspiracy to commit theft by deception, a misdemeanor. The charges against Slone and Coon were related to a trip that they and former airport executive director Michael Gobb made to a Texas strip club in 2004, when they charged $5,080 on airport credit cards, according to authorities.

Prosecutors recommended that Coon and Slone each receive 12-month jail sentences. The two are awaiting sentencing. As part of their plea deals, the two also are required to testify at any trials involving any other defendants in the case.

Gobb, who has pleaded not guilty to nine counts of felony theft by deception, is scheduled to be back in court on June 18.

Gobb, Coon and Slone have repaid the airport several thousand dollars.

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