LISBON - The last of three Salem people who ripped off their elderly friend for nearly $30,000 is the only one who will receive any prison time.
Jack R. Faulkner Jr., 56, was sentenced Friday to 11 months in prison by Columbiana County Common Pleas Court Judge C. Ashley Pike after previously pleading guilty to theft-related charges involving Henry Schnell, 86, of Salem.
Faulkner's ex-wife, Linda Faulkner-Bowling, 51, and their 28-year-old son Derrick Faulkner, were placed on probation after also pleading guilty for their roles in stealing and cashing checks belonging to Schnell and using his stolen credit card.
Assistant County Prosecutor Ryan Weikart said the reason is that under the new sentencing guidelines enacted by the state legislature, it is nearly impossible to impose prison sentences on anyone convicted of a low-level felony unless they have a prior felony conviction. He said Faulkner-Bowling and Derrick did not have any prior felony convictions, while Mr. Faulkner did.
According to Weikart, Faulkner-Bowling was friends with Schnell, who in the course of that friendship became acquainted with her son and ex-husband. In the summer of 2011, Derrick learned the security pass code to Schnell's office in Salem and entered the office when he was not present stole some of his blank checks and a credit card.
Faulkner-Bowling reportedly forged and cashed two of the checks for $12,000, while Derrick used the credit card to make nearly $10,000 in charges. Mr. Faulkner forged and cashed three more checks for $7,500.
Weikart, who said the banks and credit card company have since made Schnell whole for his losses, described Schnell as good-natured man who was probably too trusting.
"I believe (Mr. Faulkner) and his family took advantage of Mr. Schnell," he said.
When it came time for Mr. Faulkner to be sentenced, public defender Jennifer Gorby noted her client's prior felony conviction occurred in 1975, although Weikart noted he has since been charged more recently with misdemeanor marijuana and domestic violence offenses.
Mr. Faulkner told Judge Pike he has known Schnell for five years and asked he be granted probation so he would have the chance to make things right.
"He was like a father, a grandfather to me. He was the best man I ever knew in my life ... He's just a great man, and it hurts me that this ever happened," Mr. Faulkner said.
As for his actions, Mr. Faulkner said, "I made a bad judgment call about this."
His words rang hollow to Judge Pike, who said, "It looks like you took advantage of that friendship."
Pike also noted that although the prior felony conviction occurred some time ago, "whatever lesson you learned you apparently forgot. You don't seem to have any respect for Mr. Schnell."
Weikart had recommended a nine-month prison sentence as part of the plea deal worked out with Mr. Faulkner, but Pike increased it by two months.