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Guilty as charged

South Boston News
Noblin / July 15, 2013
Completing a stunning fall from grace, former Halifax County Sheriff Stanley Noblin pleaded guilty Friday morning to embezzlement of public funds that were intended for law enforcement purposes — but instead went to the personal use of the financially strapped ex-lawman.

Noblin, who denied taking the money when the allegations against him first surfaced during his unsuccessful bid for re-election in 2011, appeared in Circuit Court Friday to admit his guilt as part of a plea agreement worked out between his attorney, Glenn Berger of Altavista, and special prosecutor Eric Cooke, Southampton County Commonwealth’s Attorney. Cooke was appointed in September 2011 to oversee the investigation of the former sheriff.

Sitting judge J. Leyburn Mosby Jr. accepted Noblin’s plea and set an Oct. 17 court date to receive a presentence report, a precursor to setting possible jail time. The two sides did not agree on a recommended sentence for the judge’s consideration.

Noblin pleaded guilty to five counts of embezzling sheriff’s office funds, including $48,500 from the state — representing proceeds from crime-related asset seizures — and $32,500 in local funds that supervisors budgeted for the drug task force. Both sides agreed that Noblin must make $103,930.38 in restitution.

The prosecution agreed to drop two additional charges of embezzlement and 14 related counts of forgery of public documents. The documents in question were letters written by Noblin to County Treasurer Linda Foster, in which he represented that the funds would be used for law enforcement and drug interdiction purposes.

Each embezzlement charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years, exposing Noblin to the possibility of a 100-year prison sentence.

At the hearing Friday morning, Cooke entered evidence that included checks to Noblin written on the Sheriff’s Office account, and Noblin’s letters to the treasurer. He also entered evidence of Noblin’s conversations with Virginia State Police accountant William Talbert, in which the former sheriff admitted to taking the funds, citing personal financial distress.

There is no evidence to suggest that Noblin used the embezzled funds for illicit purposes, or that family members, including his wife, were involved.

Noblin remains free on unsecured bond as he awaits his sentencing hearing on Oct. 17. That hearing is set to take place in General District Court in Halifax.

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