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Former Berkeley County Red Cross chief pleads guilty to embezzlement

Jarrell gets probation, apologizes to leaders of the now-dissolved chapter

Jarrell gets probation, apologizes to leaders of the now-dissolved chapter

May 06, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A former American Red Cross executive director apologized to the leaders of the now-dissolved Berkeley County chapter for bilking thousands of dollars from the nonprofit organization at his sentencing Monday afternoon in circuit court.

"I am prepared to take responsibility for my actions," Jonathon Alexander Jarrell, 43, of Martinsburg, told presiding 23rd Judicial Circuit Court Judge David H. Sanders in Martinsburg.

Sanders accepted Jarrell's binding guilty plea to one felony count of embezzlement, noting the defendant's presentence investigation yielded no record of prior conviction on any charge, even traffic or parking tickets.

A one- to 10-year jail sentence was suspended, but Jarrell was placed on probation for five years, ordered to complete 200 hours of community service and pay $12,483 in restitution as part of the agreement.

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Sanders described the victimization of the Red Cross as "more aggregious" because of the organization's mission to provide disaster relief, particularly to the military.

"Here you are working the other end ... on the pure scale, that would be the reason to incarcerate you," Sanders said. "However that doesn't get the victim paid."

Jarrell, of 519 West Virginia Ave., again appeared in court Monday without an attorney after being initially denied court-appointed legal counsel.

Jarrell was indicted in October 2007 for allegedly stealing slightly more than the amount of restitution agreed upon in the plea agreement between November 2004 and July 2006, but Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela J. Games-Neely has said the defendant's former employer chose not to dispute it.

After the hearing, Jarrell said "no comment" when reporters attempted to speak to him.

Games-Neely said Jarrell was having a tough time financially when he took the Red Cross money and the embezzlement was not related to gambling or drug addictions.

Since Jarrell's arrest in April 2007, the Berkeley County organization merged with the Red Cross chapter for Jefferson and Morgan counties to form an Eastern Panhandle group. The Eastern Panhandle chapter's director did not have any comment, citing the lack of familiarity with the case.

Jarrell voluntarily resigned July 5, 2006, and police said the defendant was contacted by the chairman of the Red Cross chapter's board of directors on Jan. 31, 2007, about discrepancies in the agency's accounting records.

The defendant received five extra paychecks between August 2004 and December 2005, and police also verified discrepancies in the gift-wrapping revenue logs.

The handling of certain checks and credit card purchases also was linked to the embezzlement case, according to court records.

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