Last updated: May 15. 2014 5:06PM - 1488 Views
By Joe P. Asher jasher@civitasmedia.com



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A former Cumberland fire chief appeared in Harlan Circuit Court on Thursday on charges stemming from theft of fire department funds.


Fess L. Eldridge, 66, of Cumberland, was prepared for sentencing after entering a plea of guilty to charges of theft by deception, including cold checks under $10,000 and abuse of public trust less then $10,000.


Eldridge stood in front of Judge Henry Johnson with his attorney Laura Karem as Karem explained an issue concerning compliance with the terms set by the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office in the plea agreement.


According to Karem, an account under Eldridge’s control at BB&T Bank had been frozen, requiring a check to be written by Eldridge or for the court to issue an order turning the money over to the city of Cumberland.


The state is recommending a total of three years in prison to be pretrial diverted for five years, with restitution to be paid to the city at sentencing.


Karem said Eldridge was willing to write the check.


Johnson said he would accept the plea agreement for pretrial diversion, but would not sign the order until restitution was made.


Johnson set a sentencing date for June 5 in order to give Eldridge time to pay the restitution.


Eldridge was suspended from his position as Cumberland fire chief in February 2013 following an investigation by Kentucky State Police into missing funds at the fire department. He was indicted in December.


In other court activity:


* Oscar Michael Smith, 38, of Cawood, was sentenced on two counts of second-degree trafficking a controlled substance to two years in prison, probated for two years;


* Randall “Tater” Cottrell, 27, of Evarts, was sentenced on three counts of first-degree trafficking a controlled substance, second-degree trafficking a controlled substance and trafficking a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school. Cottrell was sentenced to 10 years in prison, probated for five years. Cottrell was additionally ordered to complete a one-year drug rehabilitation program;


* Lachrecia Ball, 34, of Cumberland, was sentenced on two counts of second-degree trafficking a controlled substance and two counts of trafficking a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school. Ball was sentenced to 10 years in prison, probated for five years;


* James Newton Stevens, 46, of Cawood, was sentenced on a charge of first-degree trafficking a controlled substance to five years in prison, probated for five years with completion of drug court;


* Abraham Bennett was sentenced on charges of theft by unlawful taking and first-degree criminal mischief to five years in prison, probated for five years. Bennett must pay $1,000 restitution and court costs. Probation is to be supervised until restitution is paid in full.


Joe P. Asher may be reached at 606-573-4510, ext. 1161 or on Twitter #joe_hde

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