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Last 3 sentenced in AEP fraud case

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Three final defendants were sentenced in a sophisticated fraud conspiracy that cost AEP nearly $600,000.

U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver handed down sentences Tuesday to Karen Hodges, and Mark and Crystal Ingram. Seven other people who participated in the scheme to submit fraudulent damage claims were sentenced in August.

Hodges, 39, of St. Albans received a prison term of one year and one day, for defrauding the utility company of $38,000. She also invited others to join in the plan.

The judge called her involvement in the scheme "considerable" and said he was also influenced by her past criminal record, which included more than 75 worthless check charges.  Hodges previously served a prison sentence in that case.

"It does seem important to set a sentence that protects the public," Copenhaver said.

Hodges will report to a federal facility Nov. 16. She has also been ordered to pay at least $100 monthly to AEP.

Hodges was one of a group of individuals, including one AEP employee, who filed fraudulent claims for damages caused by power surges.

Former Winfield resident Deborah Farmer, 47, a damage adjuster for AEP who recruited people to submit those false claims and share the proceeds with her, was sentenced recently to three years in prison.

Also on Tuesday, Copenhaver sentenced the Ingrams — husband and wife — for their roles in the theft.

Mark Ingram, 42, will serve one year and one day in prison and Crystal Ingram, 32, will serve eight months home confinement and five years probation. Both are Nitro residents.

Copenhaver said Mark Ingram's past criminal history of kidnapping and malicious wounding charges, for which he served a prison term, affected his current sentence.

He could have been sentenced to up to 18 months in prison, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Erik Goes said the man deserved some credit for his cooperation in the investigation into the complex scam.

"He's the only one who signed a letter in the investigation and stepped up to the plate to say 'I'm guilty and I'm going to offer my cooperation,' "  Goes told the judge.

Goes said Ingram's assistance helped snag Farmer and the others. He said Ingram was remorseful and humiliated by taking part in the fraud.

"I'm ashamed, and I'm really sorry," Ingram told Copenhaver.

When the judge pronounced Ingram's sentence, his wife began to cry loudly and then became ill. She fled the courtroom and the judge called a recess.

Upon her return, Copenhaver sentenced her to home confinement and probation. She could have received eight to 14 months in the penitentiary. She has no criminal background.

Mark Ingram will report to a federal facility on Jan. 4. He also must pay restitution to AEP in the amount of $52,792. His wife must pay restitution of $69,966.

Others who were recently sentenced in the same fraud are: Julia Washington, 45, of Charleston, two years in prison; Freda Bradshaw, 47, of Pliny, six months prison and six months home confinement; Jonathan Shaffer, 32, of Charleston, eight months home confinement.

Tiffany Shaffer, 24, of Poca, Bryan P. Javins, 33 of Nitro and Jeannette Boggs, 58, of Nitro, were each sentenced to four months home confinement and five years probation.

The 10 submitted at least 57 claims to AEP from March 2009 to March 2010. All defendants are paying restitution.

Contact writer Cheryl Caswell at cherylc@dailymail.com or 304-348-4832.


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