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Hagerstown woman who confessed to 'Dr. Phil' can't talk her way out of jail

Admitted con artist must serve 18 months in jail

Admitted con artist must serve 18 months in jail

February 26, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN - A Hagerstown woman who confessed on national television in January to being a con artist pleaded guilty Monday morning in Washington County Circuit Court to felony theft scheme and driving while suspended.

Michelle Pheabus, 33, must serve 18 months in jail for the felony theft scheme charge, the judge ordered.

Washington County Circuit Judge M. Kenneth Long Jr. imposed the sentence a month after Pheabus told Phil "Dr. Phil" McGraw she could get away with anything and that she didn't think she was "jail material."

"I've always thought I could talk my way out of anything, until about now," Pheabus told McGraw during a pretaped show that aired Jan. 23. "It's starting to hit me that I'm not going to be able to talk my way out of anything anymore."

Pheabus called McGraw because she thought he was going to help her, defense attorney Martin Palmer Jr. said Monday.

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"Dr. Phil" talked to Pheabus for only a few minutes, Palmer said.

"Dr. Phil only made matters worse and exploited her and her children and her family," Palmer said.

Pheabus then went to Brook Lane Health Services in Hagerstown, where a therapist determined the woman suffered from "compulsive behaviors," Palmer said.

Pheabus pleaded guilty Monday to felony theft scheme for forging more than $10,000 in checks. She wrote checks to herself, to Younger Toyota on Dual Highway, to Sagittarius Hair Salon and to Lewis C. Metzner, an attorney who was to represent her in another case, Assistant State's Attorney John Dunlap said Monday.

Pheabus took the checks from a man she dated, and she has called him to apologize, she told the judge Monday.

"Even though I knew it was wrong, I was happy for a day or two," Pheabus said.

Several other charges were dropped in exchange for the guilty plea.

Pheabus' parents and her 16-year-old daughter were in the courtroom Monday. She has four children.

Pheabus was in a long-term relationship with a man who abused her, according to her parents and her defense attorney. The man would give her blank checks and credit cards, and when the relationship ended, Pheabus looked elsewhere for money, Palmer said.

Pheabus was on probation in another case at the time of the felony theft scheme offense, and the guilty plea Monday violated her probation in that case.

Pheabus has a record of theft and forgery charges dating to at least 1995. Most of the charges have been dropped or have resulted in probation.

Long also sentenced Pheabus to 90 days in jail for driving while on a suspended license.

She faces five years of probation, the first two supervised, upon her release.

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