Former Whitley County Sheriff Sentenced 186 Months for Extortion, Money Laundering, and Drug Trafficking Offenses
|U.S. Attorney’s Office September 28, 2011|
LONDON—Former Whitley County Sheriff Lawrence Hodge was sentenced today to 186 months in federal prison for his involvement in numerous illegal activities during his tenure as Sheriff.
U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove sentenced Hodge for conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right, conspiracy to distribute oxycodone, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Judge Van Tatenhove also ordered Hodge to forfeit $50,000 and pay $64,897 in restitution.
Hodge previously admitted that on at least three separate occasions between 2004 and 2007, he conspired with Williamsburg defense attorney Ron Reynolds to extort money from individuals that the Whitley County Sheriff’s Department charged with felony drug trafficking offenses.
Specifically, Hodge referred criminal defendants to Reynolds for representation.
In addition, Reynolds, acting on behalf of Hodge, also encouraged these same clients to make forfeiture payments and/or cash donations to the Whitley County Sheriff’s Department. The department received more than $55,000 through this scheme.
Reynolds was sentenced to 27 months in prison in July for his role.
Hodge also acknowledged that he conspired with numerous drug dealers in the Whitley County area to distribute prescription pills, primarily oxycodone, over a seven year period. Hodge admitted that he was addicted to prescription pills throughout his tenure as sheriff.
As part of this conspiracy, Hodge obtained pills for his own personal use from various drug dealers with the implicit understanding that the Whitley Sheriff’s Department would not investigate them in connection with their ongoing drug distribution activities.
According to the plea agreement, Hodge admitted responsibility for the distribution of approximately 1,500 Oxycontin 80 mg pills during his involvement in the conspiracy.
Finally, Hodge admitted to conspiring with a former bookkeeper for the Whitley County Sheriff’s Department to embezzle and launder nearly $65,000 of funds belonging to the department.
According to court documents, money donated or forfeited to the department in connection with various court cases, were placed in the Whitley Sheriff Department’s Drug and Alcohol Fund.
The money in this fund was supposed to be used to make controlled drug buys, pay informants, and to further other similar law enforcement objectives. Instead, Hodge told the bookkeeper to write him a check from the fund for one of these legitimate purposes, when in reality he was using the money to fund his own drug habit and for other personal expenditures. The bookkeeper was aware that Hodge was improperly taking the funds for his own personal use.
In order to cover up for the missing funds, Hodge permitted the bookkeeper to alter the Sheriff Department’s accounting records and to falsify reports and other required paperwork.
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 Christopher R. Pikelis, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service jointly made the announcement today.
The joint investigation was conducted by agents with ATF, FBI, and IRS. The U.S. Attorney’s Office was represented by W. Samuel Dotson. In addition, the investigating agencies received assistance from the Kentucky State Police, the Williamsburg Police Department, the Office for the Auditor of Public Accounts for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and Whitley County Commonwealth Attorney Allen Trimble’s Office.