INDIANAPOLIS -- George Alexander, the former Putnam County Sheriff's Department employee who was arrested in May, pled guilty in federal court Wednesday to stealing $45,500 in federal grant money as investigators alluded to other funds they believe he took -- as much as $80,000 all told.
Justice Department Special Agent Jill Semmerling testified that her investigation found Alexander applied for two federal grants for tactical gear and bulletproof vests for the Sheriff's Department - one in April 2005 and one in July 2006.
When the Justice Department deposited the funds into a sheriff's department bank account, Alexander withdrew the money and put it into his own accounts - receiving $2,000 and $1,500 in cash, as well, she said.
Alexander used the money to buy clothing, jewelry, furniture, food at restaurants and a vacation to Treasure Island, Fla. He also gave money to his daughter and her hair salon, Semmerling said.
The federal agent said she also found that Alexander had stolen other moneys while he worked at the sheriff's department and was about to detail those findings, though Judge Larry McKinney cut her off and told her to save that testimony for the sentencing hearing.
After the hearing, Semmerling and Assistant U.S. Attorney James Warden, who is prosecuting the case, would not talk about the additional money they believe Alexander stole.
Indiana State Police Sgt. Scott Stockton, who led the state's investigation of Alexander and the sheriff's department, said he could not give details about the other alleged thefts, but said the amount of money Alexander embezzled "far exceeds" the $45,000 he is charged with stealing.
Putnam County Prosecutor Tim Bookwalter said federal investigators told him they believe Alexander's theft totals about $80,000.
Alexander does not have a plea agreement, though his attorney, William Marsh, said he hopes the early guilty plea will lead the judge to hand down a lighter sentence, which could include Alexander serving his time in community corrections, rather than in a federal prison. Alexander is currently being held at the Volunteers of America in Indianapolis.
Warden, however, said he believes federal sentencing guidelines will require Alexander to do hard time.
Alexander faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
The 59-year-old former ombudsman was short and matter-of-fact in his responses to McKinney's questions.
He told the judge that he waived his right to a jury trial and said he was guilty as charged.
The first sentencing hearing is set for 10 a.m. Feb. 14.
In his post as ombudsman, Alexander was responsible for purchasing new equipment, applying for grants, managing personnel and fielding input from the public. He was officially doing the work on a volunteer basis, though Sheriff Mark Frisbie paid him $18,000 per year out of his Commissary Fund.
Rockville, Ind., police arrested him in May in Parke County after several days on the run, during which time he called the BannerGraphic office and told reporters that he stole the money under Frisbie's direction.
Neither Marsh nor Warden would say whether it is likely that anyone else will be charged for the thefts.
Alexander still faces three theft charges and a perjury charge in Putnam County courts.