George E. White III and James Robert Harrington, both of whom stood convicted for the first time of felonies, became yesterday the two latest so-called white-collar offenders to be sentenced to prison terms of more than a year by federal judges here.
White, who was convicted by a federal jury of materminding a complex $1 million "check-kiting" scheme, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Aubrey E. Robinson Jr. to serve up to five years in prison.
Robinson originally had sentenced White to 15 years in prison for the crime, but yesterday reduced the sentence after White's unsuccessful attempt to have his conviction overturned by an appellate court.
Harrington, the operator of a boys' camp in southwest Virginia, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge John Lewis Smith Jr. to a prison term of 1 to 3 years in connection with his guilty plea to an alleged fraud scheme involving a Georgetown men's clothing store he previously managed.
Federal prosecutors and other court observers saw the two sentences as part of a continuing trend by federal judges here to impose prison terms on persons who are convicted of crims involving fraud and corruption.
The judgs who have imposed the white-collar sentences in recent months have spoken increasingly of their prison sentences as being an attempt to deter others from committing such offenses.
Robinson, made similar comments yesterday, but added that he intended his sentence to have another impact as well.
"White collar crime has presented a picture which, in too many instances, has indicated that, given the average circumstances, defendants are told only to go and sin no more," Robinson said during White's sentencing.
He said judges had a responsibility "to the total community, whose perception of the judicial branch of the system must remain one that gives the appearance of equal justice to the extent that it is humanly possible."
Claiming that White's crime was caused by "nothing but greedy ambition," Robinson said that he did not view it as a victimless crime. "Some people will never be made whole," Robinson added.
According to testimony at White's trial, the victims of White's scheme included the American Security and Trust Co. and the owners of several profitable, family-operated companies that had been turned over to White for his management and control.
A civil suit filed against White by one of the companies alleged that a major portion of the missing money went to lease a Ferrari, a Mercedes Benz, a Cadillac, an airplane, a boat and several apartments in Hawaii, the Bahamas, and several U.S. cities -- including one in the Watergate hotel here.
White who spent one month in a maximum security cell at Lorton last year before being released on appeal bond, has since been working at three part-time jobs to support his family.
"I would like the opportunity to continue with this rebuilding of my life," White said yesterday in asking that he be placed on probation. White was allowed to report to the minimum security Eglin, Fla., federal prison next week.
At his sentencing before Judge Smith, Harrington said he was sorry for his crime and wanted to continue working with problem children. "I do have a talent in that area," said Harrington, whose Camp Zarahemia in Clintwood, Va., has prompted controversy from some residents there.
Smith agreed that "there isn't any question that you do have a talent with children, but unfortunately the gravity of these offenses requires punishment."
Harrington pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and one count of obstruction of justice.
His fraud scheme involved his establishing a phony credit rating to enable his store -- Harrington and Harrington' of Georgetown, at 1322 wisconsin Ave. NW, -- to purchase large quantities of merchandise that he ultimately used for his own benefit. Prosecutors estimated the loss to the suppliers at about $150,000.
The obstruction of justice occurred when Harrington submitted falsified business records in response to a federal grand jury subpoena.
Harrington must report to a federal prison camp, probably in Allenwood, Pa., on Jan. 17.