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Before the plea, a confession
SoVaNow.com / July 18, 2013Long before former Sheriff Stanley Noblin entered a plea in court, he spoke candidly to a State Police investigator about the circumstances that led him to embezzle office funds for personal use — money, he insisted, that he had every intention of paying back.
“[I had] all the intent of putting everything back in there, but, y’know, it didn’t work out that way,” Noblin told State Police accountant William Talbert during a roughly 40-minute interview, conducted in mid-September 2012, 10 months after he was first charged with embezzlement and forgery.
In the interview, which was entered into the public record following Noblin’s guilty plea Friday to five counts of embezzlement, the ex-sheriff admitted several times to siphoning department funds to pay off mounting personal bills, although he conceded the explanation “doesn’t excuse anything.”
The confession was at odds with Noblin’s public pronouncements during his unsuccessful 2011 campaign for re-election, when he claimed all unaccounted-for funds had been spent solely for law enforcement purposes.
As part of his plea agreement Friday, Noblin has pledged to make restitution of $103,930.38 prior to his sentencing hearing in October.
In the Sept. 14, 2012, interview with Talbert, Noblin made a point of saying he knew he had to come clean about what he had done, and would be “straight up” about giving information to police. He spoke to Talbert before retaining a lawyer; Noblin is now represented by Altavista attorney Glenn Berger, who has declined comment on the case.
The banter between the two men — the interrogator (a State Police accountant), and the target of the investigation (a former Virginia State Trooper) — was congenial and low-key, with Talbert seeking a point-by-point accounting of Noblin’s fund withdrawals and personal debts, and Noblin punctuating the conversation with brief explanations of how, and why, things had gone wrong.
Deep into a discussion of Noblin’s personal finances, Talbert mused about “a case yesterday that I was working on and it floored me what happened with the guy,” then he continued: “Do you [have] any kind of gambling problems, or is your money going towards some kind of issue, or something?”
Noblin replied by noting how he had had to knock down false rumors about his personal life, and told Talbert: “I don’t have any gambling or anything else. I mean, my whole thing, Bill, was I just got behind” — due to an unforeseen parenting expense; the Noblins have three children. Noblin offered no specifics, although the conversation suggests the two men had discussed the matter previously — and “it kept getting worse.”
Among Noblin’s other troubles: forgoing his pay as a State Trooper to run for sheriff, and having “no work” with his landscaping business to make up for the loss of income when he resigned his job. “Of course, everything was booming right when I left,” he told Talbott, an apparent reference to the economy, “and then all of it, it was like a lightning bolt struck all at the same time.”
When he won his race for Sheriff for 2007, beating incumbent Jeff Oakes, Noblin gained a big bump in pay, going from an annual salary of around $50,000 with the State Police to slightly more than $80,000 by the end of his tenure as Sheriff. At the same time, however, he said he and his wife were not taking home enough pay to keep up with expenses, and offers from credit card companies were rolling in
“All of these cards were opened up because of my situation from 2007 and then going on, “ he told Talbert.
Noblin explained that he struggled to make debt payments, borrowing money from friends and associates to pay off the most troublesome loans. To satisfy one of his personal creditors, he signed over equipment of his lawn care business. He turned to another creditor — former deputy Eddie Austin — to borrow $4,000 to pay off a Discover card balance.
“I made payments but then once it got to where I couldn’t keep them up, it just rolled over with interest, you know what I mean?” said Noblin, referring to his credit card and consumer finance loans.
At times during the interview, the banter between the two men assumed the air of a credit counseling session, with Talbert prodding Noblin to go over the specifics of his financial situation and Noblin vowing to fill gaps in information at a later time. One such moment came when Talbert asked about missing cash that had been left in the Sheriff’s Office safe by Noblin’s predecessor, Jeff Oakes. Noblin said he recalled seeing the stack of bills, but didn’t remember what had happened to it.
“I couldn’t tell you where it went,” he told Talbert. “I mean, it was like we were talking about last time — if I knew, I would tell you. And I’ll think about it over the weekend. If I can recollect anything in particular where it went, I will definitely tell you.
Replied Talbert: “Is it more than likely that you used it … to pay bills and stuff … for like personal things, or [the] Sheriff’s Office?”
Noblin answered, “I’m sure I probably used some it for personal [reasons] too, Bill. Like I said, I can’t recall what was what.”
Later in the interview, Talbert offered a sympathetic ear: “I can see where you got behind. It’s the wrong way to go about it, but I’m not in your shoes, so I can’t judge it.” Talbert also struck a solicitous tone when Noblin asked him about the 14 charges of forgery brought by special prosecutor Eric Cooker of Southampton — “How can they be forgery if I signed ‘em all?” asked Noblin, referring to authorization letters that he submitted with the withdrawals of sheriff’s office funds. Talbert replied, “Um, it’s like a false premise.”
“Gotcha,” replied Noblin.
Noblin sought repeated acknowledgements from Talbert that he had been open about the investigation: “Like I told you, I was going to sit down and be straight up and honest with you. I’ve never had any intentions of lying to you about anything.” (Talbert agreed: “Yeah, I mean, I think everything is straight up, all the way through and through. No doubt.”) By the end of the conversation, Noblin raised another request: for Talbert to pray for him and “number one,” for his family.
“I appreciate what you’re doing for me, so far as trying to help me,” said Noblin. “The biggest thing you can do is pray for me, I’ll be honest with you. If you could do that, because I know you’re a Christian … that’ll help us more than anything else.
“I never tried to hurt a person in this world. The only thing I’ve tried to do is help ‘em. I’ve gotten myself in trouble by trying to help them.” He continued: “If you can pray for me and my family, that’s probably the best thing you can do … and namely for my family’s sake. That’s where my worries [are].”
Asked by Talbert if he had told his wife about his misdeeds, and his decision to confess, Noblin said she knew nothing. “I’m just waiting to see what things look like” — a reference to forthcoming criminal charges — so “when I talk to her I can sit down and talk to her about absolutely everything.
“I want to be able to have some time to sit down and talk with her and then try to get my family prepared, and that won’t happen just in an hour,” said Noblin.
“No, it’s not,” answered Talbert. “It’s going to take days and months to work through.”
Noblin was pensive about his future: “What happens on the legal end, happens on the legal end. On the heartbreak end, I don’t know what’s going to happen, if that makes sense to you … I’ve had to carry this for a long time. Just me. I was just waiting … when you and I actually got together, I had all the intent to tell you everything.”
Of his decision to undergo the interview without a lawyer, Noblin said, “Well, y’know, once everything takes place, I’ll have to have an attorney anyway. Maybe they can get together and come up with something … I don’t know.”
A decision on possible prison time for Noblin is expected Oct. 17. The hearing will take place at 10 a.m. in General District Court with substitute judge J. Leyburn Mosby Jr. presiding.
CommentsI remember a run in with Mr. Noblin during his tenure as a trooper, and his arrogance left a bad taste in my mouth.
I also remember seeing him at Lowes purchasing the best grill they made with all the bells and whistles, with a big grin on his face, during the time funds were being "misappropriated". Maybe he just had a spending problem?
I also have seen him very recently and honestly believe the arrogance is still there.
- By MH on 07 / 18 / 13
CommentsVery sad for HC for the last two sheriff's before Clark to be loosers. Hope Clark won't slide into the same rut. Don't expect him to be a great sheriff just hope he stays honest. Sad too for Oakes and Noblin's families for them both to go out in disgrace.
- By Sad on 07 / 20 / 13
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