Claiming not to remember the past decade was not a good way try to escape hard time — at least not for Frank Pearson, a former Loudoun County sheriff’s deputy sentenced Friday to three years in prison for embezzlement.
Pearson, who from 2010 to 2013 stole $229,000 in forfeited assets he was charged with overseeing, maintained throughout his trial that he had amnesia covering 10 years.
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, who presided over Pearson’s bench trial and found him guilty, said Friday that he does not believe the claim.
“You may have convinced yourself that you don’t remember these events,” Ellis said, but “your claim of amnesia doesn’t resonate with me.”
Defense attorneys said before the trial that in October 2013, after Pearson’s wife found him unresponsive on the bathroom floor of the family’s home, he woke up thinking the year was 2001 and he was unable to recognize friends he had met after that year.
Ellis noted Friday that a physician was unable to confirm Pearson’s memory loss and had deemed the ex-deputy fit to stand trial.
“I grew up in a society where corruption was rife,” said Ellis, who was born in Colombia. “Corruption by government can kill a society.”
Prosecutors noted that not all of the lost funds have been accounted for. The night before he was due to meet with supervisors who had grown suspicious, Pearson was seen leaving the office with two boxes that another deputy said contained rolls of coins.
Loudoun Sheriff Mike Chapman, who was criticized by a challenger during his reelection campaign last year for failing to stop the embezzlement earlier, said in court Friday that Pearson “really betrayed the trust of his unit, the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office and law enforcement across the board.” Investigating the crime in concert with the FBI took thousands of hours and dollars, he said.
Pearson will have to pay restitution in full for his theft. His attorney, Daniel Lopez, said Friday that his client used the money not for “luxury items” but to take care of his wife, who suffers from diabetes and makes close to minimum wage.
“Before he engaged in this criminal behavior, Mr. Pearson was an upstanding member of his church, an upstanding member of his community, an upstanding member of law enforcement,” Lopez said.
Several members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wrote letters detailing Pearson’s good acts and came to court Friday in support. Lopez added that Pearson had served in the Marine Corps with honors.
“Mr. Pearson has fallen mightily and far,” Lopez said.
Pearson declined to speak. At his lawyer’s request, he was allowed to delay his surrender until his son returns from a church mission in Peru.