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Plea agreements reached in thefts from car dealership

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No mention of arson suspects, no discussion of fire

By Bob White

By BOB WHITE

bwhite@thenewsenterprise.com

ELIZABETHTOWN — Two men charged with theft after an investigation into a suspicious fire at a former Radcliff car dealership were sentenced in Hardin Circuit Court in connection with events before the 2004 blaze destroyed much of the dealership.

Donald Ray Fox, 45, and George Maynard Jones Jr., 63, both former Herb Jones managers, were indicted a year-and-a-half ago on 12 felony counts each for alleged misappropriation of dealership funds, altering check information and failure to make required dispositions of vehicle property.

Combined, the thefts amounted to a loss of about $30,000 in dealership money and resources which, according to the 2007 indictments, the men used “as their own.”

In a plea agreement negotiated between the Hardin County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office and Fox’s attorney, Paul Musselwhite, Fox pleaded guilty to misdemeanor theft-related charges in exchange for a 12-month probated sentence. Fox has paid restitution, prosecuting attorney Jenohn LeShea Smith said.

Jones, who is not related to the dealership’s owners,  accepted felony theft-related convictions for his role in altering check information and misappropriation of dealership funds.

His eight-year sentence, handed down Tuesday by Judge Janet Coleman, was probated. He is ordered to pay about $20,000 in restitution at a rate of more than $400 per month.

Neither Fox’s co-counsel, attorney Carol Meinhart, nor Jones’ attorney, Jeremy Aldridge, could specify the exact counts to which their clients pleaded guilty.

“The underlying charge was theft by unlawful taking,” Aldridge said. “That’s basically what it amounts to.”

Aldridge said the plea bargains were negotiated separately and could not verify the details of Jones’ conviction.

Both defendants originally were charged with four counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument and eight counts of theft by failure to make required disposition of property of more than $300 in value. Each of the Class D felonies are punishable by up to five years imprisonment if convicted.

Neither Fox nor Jones would discuss anything about the 2004 blaze which destroyed more than $1 million in inventory, a major structure and employee tools. Both refused to answer a reporter’s questions as they left the Justice Center in Elizabethtown.

The fire which sparked the investigation that led to Fox’s and Jones’ convictions occurred on Dec. 16, 2004 — the same day 20 employees were laid off in lieu of Herb Jones’ sale to another auto dealership.

Inspectors determined the cause to be arson within two weeks of the blaze, but have not disclosed the accelerant or source of ignition used.

Mechanic George Marinich, a former Herb Jones employee, said he hopes someone is charged soon, so employees who lost tools can file civil claims for the value of tools lost in the fire. Some employees received some compensation for their losses, but Marinich said the compensation was only a small portion of the value of tools lost.

Investigators have not disclosed if they have any suspects in the case. No one has been charged with setting the blaze. Jones and Fox are not implicated in the fire.

Bob White can be reached at (270) 505-1750.