Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
Louisville Field Division
At The Frontline Against Violent Crime
For Immediate Release
September 28, 2011
Contact: George Huffman
Public Information Officer
Former Whitley County Sheriff Gets 186 Months
Former Sheriff Guilty On Extortion, Money Laundering, and Drug Trafficking Charges
LONDON, Ky. — 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.
Hodge, 51, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove to charges of conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right, conspiracy to distribute oxycodone, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Hodge 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.
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 oxycodone 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, to 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 for personal expenditures and to fund his own drug habit. The bookkeeper was aware that Hodge was improperly taking the funds for his own personal use.
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.
As part of his plea agreement, Hodge will be required to pay restitution to the Whitley County Government in the amount of $64,897 for his role in this scheme.
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 today jointly made the announcement.
It is a sad day for law enforcement when a person of trust allows greed to cause him to disregard the oath he swore to uphold, and betray the trust and confidence of the people who elected him, Vido said.
The sentence of 186 months shows the seriousness of the charges. The Kentucky law enforcement community will not tolerate such criminal behavior. This case was an example of how ATF and its federal, state and local law enforcement partners work together toward a common goal.
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.
More information about ATF and its programs is available at www.atf.gov.