INDIANAPOLIS -- A federal judge sentenced a former Putnam County Sheriff's Department manager to 18 months in prison and three years probation Thursday for stealing nearly $90,000 in federal and county funds over the course of two years, as new details about the thefts emerged.
Additionally, judge Larry McKinney ordered George Alexander, a Greencastle resident, to pay back the money he stole -- $31,000 to the Putnam County Auditor's Office and $57,000 to the federal government -- and admonished him for abusing his position and the public trust.
The prison term McKinney handed down was the maximum recommended by federal sentencing guidelines and was exactly what Assistant U.S. Attorney James Warden requested.
Alexander, 59, was formally charged with stealing about $45,000 in U.S. Department of Justice grants. He pleaded guilty to those thefts in November.
However, Warden said federal investigators believe he stole federal grant money as many as seven times and stole county funds amounting to about $29,000 on seven other occasions. The thefts spanned from April 2005 to April 2007.
Alexander declined to speak to the BannerGraphic, though he did tell McKinney that he accepts full responsibility for the thefts and characterized his actions as a "a momentary lapse in judgment."
By acc-epting full responsibility for the thefts, Alexander seemed to dismiss a claim he made prior to his arrest in May that he stole the money under the direction of Sheriff Mark Frisbie.
McKinney, however, rejected the "momentary lapse" view in his rebuke of Alexander from the bench. As he handed down the sentence, the judge echoed many of the sentiments Warden raised in his sentencing recommendation, saying that Alexander acted out of personal greed and undermined trust both in the federal government and in the Putnam County Sheriff's Department in his theft.
Alexander used the money he stole to buy clothing, jewelry, furniture, food at restaurants and a vacation to Treasure Island, Fla., according to investigators. He also gave cash to his daughter and her hair salon.
McKinney weighed the harm of Alexander abusing his official post against letters several people had written to the judge on the former Sheriff's Department employee's behalf, including one from a counselor at the Volunteers of America who said Alexander had made substantial strides in improving himself.
However, McKinney kept coming back to the fact that he was "overwhelmed by the seriousness of the offense," particularly the way in which Alexander compromised the authority of the federal government and sheriff's department.
The department and Frisbie are currently under investigation by the Indiana State Police and federal authorities as a result of questionable bookkeeping practices raised by a State Board of Accounts audit.
As the judge handed down his determination, 18 months and three years of probation per charge, to be served concurrently, Alexander's daughter began to quietly sob from her seat in the courtroom.
Alexander's ex-wife was also in attendance. Both women declined to be interviewed by the BannerGraphic.
Alexander's attorney, Bill Marsh, said he hopes that his client will be held at the federal prison in Terre Haute.
During his tenure at the Sheriff's Department, Alexander served as ombudsman and was responsible for purchasing new equipment, applying for grants, managing personnel and fielding input from the public.
Alexander drove a sheriff's department vehicle, carried a department-issued weapon and a badge, McKinney said. He was officially doing the work on a volunteer basis, though Frisbie paid him $18,000 per year out of the department's Commissary Fund.
Those payments were never reported to the IRS and Alexander still faces a perjury charge in Putnam County courts for a statement he made under oath about his income.
The Indiana State Police White Collar Crimes Division first charged him with theft in May and Alexander spent several days on the run from authorities before he turned himself in to a police officer at a campground in Rockville.