Following a nearly 3 hour long sentencing hearing on Thursday, Mack Horn, 66, and his wife, Debra, 54, were sentenced to serve 4 years in a Virginia prison for their role in the embezzlement of over $100,000 from the John Ratliff post of the American Legion and its Ladies Auxiliary.
At the time of their crimes, Mack Horn served as Treasurer of the American Legion post and his wife Debra served as Treasurer of the Ladies Auxiliary. During the sentencing hearing, prosecutors showed that the duo cashed in multiple certificates of deposit that were held by the American Legion, and then deposited the funds into their private bank account in Bath County, Virginia. Virginia State Police Investigator Jeff Starnes testified that by tracing those funds, he was able to determine that they were used to pay loan payments for an apartment building that the Horns owned, to pay property taxes owed on their properties, attorney fees, and to fund what was presumed to be an investment account with Star Global.
In the spring of 2012, Les Clevinger, Commander of the Post, and other post members became concerned when they began receiving notices of non-payment by creditors. According to Clevinger, Horn assured them that the bills were up to date and there was nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, the notices continued to come and eventually, the post voted to allow Clevinger to look into the matter. Clevinger and his fellow post members took their concerns to Commonwealth’s Attorney Gerald Arrington who directed the Virginia State Police to begin an investigation.
Shortly after the meeting with Arrington, post members held a meeting with Horn hoping that there had been some type of misunderstanding. At that meeting, Horn produced a report from a local CPA showing that the missing fund had been cashed in but re-deposited in other certificates of deposits in the post’s name. During the hearing, prosecutors showed that in reality, the Horns had cashed the C.D.s in and had deposited those funds into their personal account and then altered documents to create fake C.D.s to account for the money. The fraudulent documents were then provided to their accountant who unknowingly created a report showing a legitimate use of funds.
Prosecutors were able to determine that more than $118,000 had been embezzled by the Horns. Just before the hearing began, the attorneys for the Horns handed over a check for more than $90,000 and agreed to endorse an order transferring the ownership of frozen funds which would satisfy the remaining balance owed to the post.
During argument, defense attorneys pointed out that their clients had made donations of time and money to the post over the years, had paid more than $118,000 in restitution, and had never been involved in criminal activity prior to this, and therefore deserved probation as an alternative sentence. Arrington fired back that the actions of the Horns were “disgusting” and that the judge was entitled to disregard the sentencing guidelines and suggested that the Court sentence the Horns to serve 10 years in prison because “if there has ever been a theft case that deserved a sentence over the guidelines, this is the one” because of the Horns greed pointing out that “they weren’t stealing to buy food or medicine, but instead were making improvements to a vacation home, paying payments on their apartment building, and funding investments to get even richer.”
Judge Johnson said that he felt that both sides were “asking for extremes” with regard to punishment but stated that as the Commonwealth had pointed out, the Horns fraudulent acts were repetitive over a significant period of time and were deserving of some jail time. Johnson then sentenced the Horns to 30 years in prison with 26 years of their sentences suspended on the condition that they successfully complete 8 years of probation. Over the Commonwealth’s objection, Johnson gave the Horns seven days to get their affairs in order and to report to jail.
When asked for comment, Commonwealth’s Attorney Gerald Arrington stated that he “was pleased to see the Horns receive a substantial penitentiary sentence, and they deserved every single day of their sentences. The American Legion and its Ladies’ Auxiliary are a wonderful group of people who try to make our community a better place to live, who try to instill values in our youth, and who honor our veterans. To steal from them was not only criminal, it was disgusting.”