Small price to pay for a big crime

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 6, 2002

Tribune Staff

Even though he will spend five years behind bars, have to pay a $10,000 fine and supposedly make restitution of nearly $4 million to an insurance company, Douglas Calhoun must be pleased with the sentence Common Pleas Court Judge Frank McCown handed down Wednesday.

The lenient sentence was not because Judge McCown decided to go easy on Calhoun, but reflective of a major flaw in Ohio law. Calhoun, who stole nearly $1 million from credit union members over a 12-year period, was sentenced the maximum of 12 months on the charge of theft,

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five years each on two counts of aggravated theft over $100,000 and 18 months on 10 counts of grand theft of amounts between $5,000 and $100,000. But Ohio law mandates that these charges be treated as a single incident and that, although he was sentenced for each count, the sentences will be served concurrently, meaning that they will all begin at the same time and he will only serve the longest term

-- five years.

Even though he only took about $1 million, American Share Insurance, the company that liquidated the credit union, paid out $3.8 million to members. This included the 8 percent interest Calhoun promised to entice members to invest more.

Five years is a small price to pay for such a big crime. Hundreds of people suffered financial hardship because of Calhoun. He also betrayed their trust and attempted to rob them of their life savings. His meager attempt at an apology during his sentencing Wednesday is deplorable. If he were truly sorry, he would not have stole the money in the first place.

The Ohio legislature needs to look at the law and bring forth a more appropriate penalty for such a crime. It is not fair that some are doing much more time in prison for stealing a lot less, simply because of the nature of the theft.

Whether the money was stolen by deceit or at gunpoint should not matter. Any way you look at it, $1 million is a lot of money.