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City workers plead to gas thefts

By Jared Felkins jfelkins@lebanondemocrat.com • Dec 17, 2015 at 6:16 PM

Three Lebanon Gas Department employees pleaded guilty Friday to charges they stole natural gas at their homes. 

According to court records, former city workers Ralph Sloan and Henry Bennett pleaded guilty to misdemeanor theft of services in criminal circuit court. Both were sentenced to 11 months and 29 days unsupervised probation and ordered to pay the city restitution. Sloan paid $429 and Bennett $342 in restitution Friday, court records showed. 

Former city worker Mark Caplenor pleaded guilty to felony public utilities fraud. He was sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation and ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution to the city, which he did Friday according to court records. 

“Essentially the case was based on what we could prove,” said Assistant District Attorney Jimmy Lea, who served as a prosecutor on the case. “Those were the amounts provided to us by the city.”

In November, city attorney Andy Wright said Sloan and Bennett were added to a multi-agency investigation that started with Caplenor, who resigned amid allegations in August he stole natural gas at his home for about nine years. Wright said Sloan retired from the city amid similar allegations.

Since Sloan, a 32-year employee with the city, lived in the county, sheriff’s investigators handled the investigation into his involvement in stealing gas at his home. Sheriff’s investigators also investigated the Caplenor case. 

Lebanon police investigators led the investigation on Bennett – a four-year city worker – since his home is within the city limits.

According to court records, all three men were tried under judicial diversion, which means each could apply to have their records cleared once their probation ends and they remain with a clear record. The judicial diversion was granted on the condition their restitution was paid in full Friday. 

Lebanon Gas Department supervisor Jerry Snodgrass said determining restitution amounts for the three men was difficult. 

“Basically going on the history of their meter readings, it was an average of their normal usage versus lack of usage during the time in question,” Snodgrass said. “With Caplenor, it was a yearly average of homes similar to the size of his home and number of appliances.”

Wright said Sloan, who was fully vested in the city’s retirement plan, would be eligible for retirement since he was convicted of a misdemeanor. 

“That would not keep him from receiving his retirement from the state,” Wright said. “He would have to be a convicted felon and the felony would have to be related to his job in some way to be denied that.”

Caplenor, a 13-year city employee, would not be eligible for partial retirement pay unless his record is cleared following serving probation. 

Bennett would not be eligible for retirement pay of any kind since partial vestment with the city begins after five years of employment. 

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