Thursday, September 16, 2010
Judge Rejects LaBelle's Susan English Plea
Former Hendry Jail Administrator Pleads "No Contest'' - Judge Denies Proposed Plea & Probation Proposal
LABELLE, FL. -- Former Henry County Jail administrator, Major Susan Russe Sibbald English entered a ''no contest'' plea this morning before Circuit Judge Christine Greider at the Hendry county courthouse. English is accused of two felony counts surrounding missing money at the Hendry county jail while she was worked there.
Judge Grieder, however would not accept English's proposed plea, for which English agreed with prosecutors to serve 23 months in prison, and be on probation for 20 years. English also asked the judge to delay sentencing until after the holidays. The judge denied that request as well.
English proposed to pay back $120,343.35 to the Hendry Sheriff's department over a period of 20 years at $500 a month. The agreement was worked out between English and the State Attorney's office, but the judge said she had read the file and would not accept that proposed agreement, and would continue the case to trial.
Background On English's Arrest
In March 2009, the FDLE was informed by the Hendry Sheriff's office of suspicious activity in jail accounts. It was learned that English made frequent cash withdrawals from the Olde Cypress Community Bank in LaBelle, but records documenting the cash withdrawals could not be found in her records. Cashed checks were made out in amounts from $355 to $3210 over three years.
According to a 'probable cause' affidavit prepared by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to gain an arrest warrant for Major English, a 53-year old 5' 3'' blonde, records at the jail indicated inconsistencies in the disposition of funds from the accounts under her control, leading Sheriff Steve Whidden to call in the FDLE to investigate.
In 2006, the affidavit says, English cashed $31,329 at the LaBelle bank. The amount of cash taken rose in 2007 to $42,206, and in 2008 to $46,807. Tellers at the Olde Cypress Bank confirmed to investigators that English made frequent cash withdrawals from the jail account.
English made out the checks from a so called petit cash account so she could cash them, but wrote on the check stubs they were for various vendors to disguise them should anyone check. Lt. Michael Kosh provided a sworn statement that he was unaware of any type of 'cash drawer' at the jail. He said that English had told him in January 2009, just before her retirement to not tell the finance department or administration about the jail canteen account.
In May 2009, FDLE Special Agent Ryan Walker interviewed English when she admitted to begin writing checks in 2006 for cash and cashing them at the bank, about one every two weeks she said.
English said the money was to pay for childcare for grandchildren, clothes, doctor bills for her grandchildren, and vehicle repairs for her personal vehicle. She said she had given her step children about $30,000 each from the cash from the jail account. English said she tried to cover up the thefts by writing on check that they were from a petit cash drawer, which actually didn't exist.
English told an investigator in a written statement last year that she blames her husband's loss of a job and having to take custody of two grandchildren as reasons for taking funds from the LaBelle jail account.
English claims that all the money she took has been spent. She says she is ''extremely sorry'' for everything she had done. She has been out of jail on $25,000 bond and living in Westville, Florida.
Judge Greider has set a case management hearing for English on October 14, in preparation for an eventual trial.