COVINGTON | Tim Fegan, former executive director of the Buffalo Trace Gateway Area Narcotics Task Force was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison for stealing money from the federal government.
Fegan was also ordered to make restitution in the amount of $97,414 to the U.S. government.
That was the decision handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Amul Thapar Thursday in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Kentucky in Covington.
Fegan entered a guilty plea to one count of theft of government money on Feb. 28. When he entered his plea, Fegan acknowledged he took cash proceeds that Task Force agents had seized during drug investigations and took money that the Task Force kept on hand to perform undercover drug buys, according to a press release issued Feb. 28 by U.S. Attorney Kerry B. Harvey.
Fegan was indicted Dec. 5, 2013, by a federal grand jury in Lexington on three counts under U.S. Code 666(a)(1)(A) for receiving "more than $10,000 of federal funds in a 12 month period, embezzled, stole, obtained by fraud, otherwise without authority knowingly converted to the use of a person other than the rightful owner, and intentionally misapplied property valued cumulatively at $5,000 or more and owned by and under the care, custody, and control of the Buffalo Trace Gateway Area Narcotics Task Force..."
Although indicted on three counts of embezzelment, Fegan's sentence was on one count, because the second and third counts were dismissed.
Thapar deliberated the low end sentence against a sentence of 18 months, after U. S. Attorney Andy Barr recommended the low end sentence to the court.
Reasons given by Barr and Fegan's attorney, Jon Alig of Wilder, were that Fegan had cooperated with officials during the investigation and was honest about his actions of taking the money.
Alig cited Fegan's personal circumstances, which included the financial burden of medical bills incurred due to his wife's health, as the reason he turned to "robbing Peter to pay Paul."
Thapar said he had concerns that a low end sentence would be perceived by the public that law enforcement officials are given a break (for their actions) and are not held to the same standards as regular citizens who commit crimes.
With the discussion ended, Thapar cited "mitigating circumstances" and imposed the sentence of 12 months and one day, which allows Fegan to earn 15 percent of his sentence for good behavior, meaning he will serve 85 percent of the sentence, or 10 months.
Thapar also said he imposed the low end sentence because Fegan admitted what he did.
"You made very bad choices ... choices have consequences. I worry this is not sufficient enough," Thapar said. Thapar also called the circumstances of the offense "terrible."
Alig requested and was granted a request to delay when Fegan would report for his incarceration, citing the fact Fegan's wife is scheduled for surgery the first week of July. Thapar set July 31 as the date Fegan would begin his sentence. Also as part of the sentence, Fegan will be on supervised release for three years after his release from prison; is not allowed to have credit cards without approval of the Office of Probation and Parole; and will not be allowed to carry a firearm.
Kim Haitz, former administrative assistant at the Task Force, was questioned during the investigation, which was led by Kentucky State Police and the FBI. Haitz attended the sentencing hearing and said she would have liked for the sentence to have been the full 18 months.
Haitz said Fegan's actions, combined with the fact two federal grants in the form of stimulus money had run out to operate the agency, helped bring about the demise of the task force.
Mason County Sheriff Patrick Boggs and Maysville Police Chief Ron Rice were also in attendance for the hearing. Both were members of the BTGANTF board of directors, having been appointed in 2012.
After assuming the position of board chairman, Boggs conducted a spot audit of the BTGANTF records, which uncovered discrepancies in the amount of drug money.
Nearly at the same time, Rice conducted an inspection of the property room and conveyed concerns to Boggs about the evidence on hand and questioned if an audit should be conducted, Rice said Thursday following the hearing.
Both said they are glad the ordeal is wrapping up, and both said they understand the sentencing guidelines of the federal court system.
Boggs said he would agree with public sentiment that the sentencing wasn't sufficient, but said after researching the guidelines, he understood why Fegan got the low end sentence.
"In no way should law enforcement officers be held above the law. We will wait to receive restitution," Boggs said.
"We live in a society where everyone has their day in court, Tim has had his day," Rice said.
Rice said Alig, Fegan's attorney did a good job convincing the court going with the low end scale was sufficient.
"I don't necessarily agree or disagree with the sentence. I believe that decision was made with a lot of heart rather than head," Rice said.
"I don't believe the investigation is over, there is a possibility of other charges being filed. I want to thank KSP for the job they did, they put a lot of hard work into it, that's where the disappointment comes in," Boggs said.