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Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014

Frisbie charged with federal program theft

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

(Photo)
Former Putnam County Sheriff Mark T. Frisbie had been charged with federal program theft.

"This is a tragedy in every sense of the word," said Robert Hammerle, Frisbie's Indianapolis-based attorney. "Mark has been a dedicated public servant."

The felony charge could net Frisbie a 10-year prison sentence and a maximum fine of $250,000.

Hammerle said Frisbie would not be arrested. He will receive a summons and go before a judge in Indianapolis to plead to the charge, and will "simply report and be released on his own recognizance."

This option exists in every court, but is rarely used other than at the federal level, Hammerle said.

Hammerle said he expected Frisbie to be sentenced 60-90 days after his initial court appearance. He wouldn't speculate on whether or not Frisbie would do any jail time.

"One cannot eliminate that possibility," he said. "We remain hopeful that the judge will give punishment without jail time."

The charges were handed down by Timothy M. Morrison, United States attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, at about 1 p.m. today, and come as the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Indiana State Police.

"The offense charged involves theft of misapplication of funds from a government agency," a release from the U.S. Department of Justice said. "In this case, it is alleged that Frisbie, at the time sheriff of Putnam County, Indiana, stole approximately $12,530.46 from the sheriff's department between Jan. 18, 2006 and March 28, 2007. The sheriff's department had received over $45,000 in federal grant money during the applicable period."

Hammerle said Frisbie has taken responsibility for the misappropriation.

"(Frisbie) recognizes there was money misapplied," he said. "He has cooperated and agreed to plead guilty to this charge."

A guilty plea to a federal charge will effectively end Frisbie's law enforcement career, as he will not be allowed to ever again carry a firearm. He has been a police officer for many years, and was first elected sheriff in 2002. He was re-elected in 2006.

Rumors are swirling that Frisbie has joined the military, but Hammerle would not comment on that issue.

"What I will say is that Mark, as anyone in his situation would, is pursuing a career," Hammerle said. "And he's doing so with my encouragement."

The total Frisbie allegedly stole includes over $4,000 he has already paid back, Hammerle said.

"I am not trying to minimize what happened, and neither is Mark," Hammerle said. "If even $10 of taxpayer money has been misapplied, that's wrong. I just want to be clear that this is a case of expenses that were determined not to be proper that there was no embezzlement or siphoning off of funds for personal gain. It was about money that he was authorized to spend that was determined to have been spent incorrectly. And Mark, to his everlasting credit, has never not taken responsibility."

According to court documents, Frisbie allegedly stole the funds via unauthorized use of the PCSD Visa credit card account at First National Bank in Greencastle, as well as through unauthorized use of the sheriff's department's commissary checking account, which was housed at the same bank.

Purposes listed for the use of the misappropriated funds included:

* To pay for expenses of Frisbie Security Consulting LLC, a private business owned and operated by Frisbie.

* To pay for travel expenses for Frisbie's stepdaughter.

* To reimburse himself for expenses and meals that he had already been paid for through the sheriff's department.

* To pay for campaign supplies for his 2006 re-election.

* To pay for a personal business trip related to the operation of Frisbie Security Consulting, LLC.

The case will be prosecuted by U.S. Attorney James M. Warden.

"The charge is an allegation only, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty at trial or by guilty plea," the release said.

This is not the first fiscal flap the Putnam County Sheriff's Department has faced this year.

In February, former Putnam County Sheriff's Department manager George Alexander, 59, was sentenced by the U.S. Attorney's Office to 18 months in prison and three years probation for stealing nearly $90,000 in federal county funds over the course of two years.

Alexander had claimed he stole the money under the direction of Frisbie. Hammerle said Frisbie's charges are "isolated instances" and are not at all related to the Alexander case.

Hammerle called the filing of the charges "a horrible moment for Mark and his family."

"People will say he brought this on himself," Hammerle said. "You know, a few years ago I was dealing with a pharmacist who was charged in federal court. His wife looked at me in exasperation and said, 'Bob, doesn't the federal government realize there are no straight trees growing in the forest?' I don't say these things to encourage sympathy, but people need to remember that Mark's not one of those people who creates excuses. It's not an easy thing to stand tall and take responsibility.

"The hardest thing about my profession is representing an extraordinarily decent person who has done something wrong to their great regret," he continued. "It can be heartbreaking from this side."

A spokesperson of the Putnam County Sheriff's Department declined comment.