By Jay Reeves
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — A former north Alabama police officer accused of stealing $60,000 from his department, staging his abduction and fleeing to Las Vegas pleaded guilty Wednesday and will likely face prison time.
A former police volunteer-turned-girlfriend who admitted helping in the ruse also pleaded guilty, but she could avoid prison.
Faron White, a longtime sergeant who was once named officer of the year for the Decatur Police Department, admitted stealing from his office safe in 2007 and 2008 and faking his abduction in January with the help of Sarah Richardson. She was a citizen volunteer who helped in the organized crime unit supervised by White, 48.
Richardson, 29, admitted helping White pack and driving him to the airport for a flight to Nevada, where he was captured by federal marshals.
"It's particularly bad when someone in a position of trust does something like this," Assistant U.S. Attorney David Estes said after hearings for the two.
White overturned his office chair and faked signs of a struggle, prompting searches and an investigation that ended with his arrest at a Las Vegas hotel Jan. 5, three days after he went missing.
Richardson fought back tears as the former officer shuffled into the courtroom. They didn't speak to each other.
White was married at the time of his disappearance, but his wife has since sought a divorce. Richardson said she was single following a divorce.
U.S. District Judge C. Lynwood Smith said White faces a maximum of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and restitution of $60,000 to repay the stolen money, which investigators said went mostly for gambling.
Richardson faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $125,000 fine.
Prosecutors will make a recommendation at sentencing, which is set for July 14.
Estes said White would likely be sent to prison, but Richardson could avoid incarceration, partly because she helped in the investigation after initially lying about her involvement.
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"Obviously she's facing the possibility of jail time, and we will have to see what the pre-sentencing report finds, but I don't think the government is going to recommend jail time," he said.