Ex-mayor, town administrator get prison time for stealing funds - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Ex-mayor, town administrator get prison time for stealing funds

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Larry Sharpe (Source: Jody Barr) Larry Sharpe (Source: Jody Barr)
Jennifer Poole (Source: Jody Barr) Jennifer Poole (Source: Jody Barr)
Jessica Poole Muse (Source: Jody Barr) Jessica Poole Muse (Source: Jody Barr)
LEXINGTON COUNTY, SC (WIS) -

Five years after a 7-month investigation led to their arrests, two former town of Gaston officials will spend time in prison for stealing tax dollars and a third has been ordered to pay back more than $12,000.

A judge on Thursday sentenced former mayor Larry Sharpe, 65, to 18 months in prison and five years probation. He was also ordered to pay $5,000 restitution.

EMS was put on standby when Sharpe told court officials he was feeling weak and needed to lie down. He left the court room for several minutes until it was time for his sentence to be read.

After being sentenced, Sharpe left in the custody of police while EMS was outside the courtroom with a stretcher.

Sharpe has a history of health problems and had a heart attack at his Oct. 19 plea hearing. He had a letter from his doctor stating that he could in no way stand trial.

The town's former administrator, 54-year-old Jennifer Poole, was sentenced to three years in prison and five years probation. She was ordered to pay restitution of $44,823.57, and she may have to pay another $10,000. A hearing will be held at a later date to determine that.

Poole's daughter, Jessica Poole Muse, avoided prison time. The judge ordered the former court clerk to pay $12,191.61 restitution. She also received five years probation. If she pays all of the restitution in two years, the judge said she will be taken off probation.

The trio was originally charged with misconduct in office and stealing tax dollars while they ran the town from 2000, until their arrests in April 2008.

Prosecutor Robert Elam said problems with the town's finances were discovered when Poole retired in 2007.

Court records show that all three confessed to the crimes, according to the affidavit filed by SLED agent Jerry A. Merritt. The confessions came after the arrests in April 2008. Merritt wrote that Sharpe, between Jan. 1, 2003 and Dec. 31, 2007, "willfully, fraudulently and feloniously" converted town money to his own use through "false reimbursements."

Sharpe and Poole eventually pleaded guilty to felony breach of trust with fraudulent intent of more than $5,000.

Jessica Muse pleaded guilty to felony breach of trust.

All three faced up to 10 years in prison.

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