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Man who stole from estate is sentenced

December 19, 1998|By BRENDAN KIRBY

A Smithsburg man who stole thousands of dollars from an estate he managed for four years was sentenced Friday to four years in prison.

Washington County Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright III sentenced Preston Lee Stout to 10 years in prison with all but four years suspended. Wright also sentenced Stout to three years probation and ordered him to pay the estate $80,000 within a year of his release.

Stout, 52, of 101 Amber Way, pleaded guilty last month to felony theft by scheme and perjury.

Wright said a stiff prison sentence usually plays a small role in deterring similar crimes.

"But it does have a value as to certain types of criminal activity," he said. "A crime of greed and a crime with constant greed I believe is subject to deterrence."

Both sides said Wright's sentence was fair.

"It's more than I thought it probably would be," said John Ausherman, a family member who was appointed executor in June 1997.

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According to an account of the crime offered by Assistant State's Attorney Arthur Rozes, Stout became executor of the estate of John M. Sanderson Jr. on March 3, 1993.

"He immediately began to loot the estate," Rozes said. "The pattern was repeated continuously for a period of four years, your honor."

Rozes said Stout deposited checks into his bank account and used dormant account numbers to deposit other funds. Stout had access to the accounts through his job at Farmers and Merchants Bank and Trust, he said.

In addition to the financial value of the estate, Rozes said Sanderson's relatives lost numerous records and personal items.

"We have no accounting and can't have any accounting of the personal property of John Sanderson," Rozes said. "They have nothing, nothing at all to tell them the history of their family."

In court, Ausherman delivered an impassioned plea for a severe penalty.

Stout's attorney argued for leniency, in part, because Stout received angioplasty for a heart condition. But Ausherman rejected his claim of heart trouble.

"It's my opinion that a man who continues to do these things has no heart," he said.

Trisha Daly-Karlson, a cousin of Sanderson, said Sanderson had bought many pieces of expensive jewelry for his wife over the years.

"And there was not a piece of it left," said Daly-Karlson, who traveled from Cape Cod, Mass., to speak for the family on Friday. "He's virtually stripped the estate of every personal item that there was.

"To Preston Stout, this is all about money, and I think he thinks that is all about money for us. But to us, this is not," she said.

Stout's attorney, Mark Brugh, urged Wright to place his client on home detention and allow him to keep his work-release job at Phoenix Color.

Brugh said Stout has suffered great embarrassment and has lost his job at F&M Bank and prestige in the community.

"I am not here to suggest that anyone should feel sorry for Mr. Stout for what he's lost," Brugh said. "There is nothing I am going to say which is meant to diminish their loss."

Brugh asked Wright to balance Stout's crimes with his contributions to the community. He has served numerous organizations, including the Western Enterprise Volunteer Fire. Co., his church, Valley Little League, Habitat for Humanity and the United Way.

Stout also has no prior criminal record, Brugh said.

"He's been an important member of this community," he said.

Stout apologized to the Sanderson's heirs, his family and the court.

"I'm really sorry for what I've done. I've tried to make amends," he said. "I've lost a lot of humility and a lot of self-righteousness."

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