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Restitution and Year in Jail Urged for Ely : Courts: The college trustee who was convicted of embezzlement says probation officials were unduly influenced by the D.A.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Concluding that convicted embezzler James T. (Tom) Ely “blatantly abused” the public trust without remorse, county probation officials are recommending that Ely be sentenced to one year in county jail and ordered to pay $14,415 restitution for stealing thousands of dollars from the Ventura County Community College District.

Probation officials are also urging that the college district trustee be placed on six years probation after serving his recommended jail sentence, according to a pre-sentencing report obtained Friday by The Times.

After learning of the recommendations, Ely accused the county’s probation department of being unduly influenced by the district attorney’s office, which he said has a vendetta against him. He repeated previous statements that he thinks the entire case against him and his wife, Ingrid, is “absolute bull.”

Superior Court Judge Lawrence Storch, who does not have to follow the suggestions of the probation report, is scheduled to sentence the Elys--both convicted in June of embezzlement and conspiracy--on Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the county Hall of Justice.

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The maximum possible sentence Ely faces is six years in state prison. He also will be automatically stripped of his position as college trustee. Ingrid Ely faces a maximum three-year prison term. But Storch is not obligated to impose any period of confinement.

The sentencing recommendations for Ingrid Ely were not available Friday.

The couple was found guilty two months ago of stealing $15,000 in district funds by padding expense accounts between April, 1988, and January, 1990. Tom Ely was convicted of 29 counts of fraud, embezzlement and conspiracy. Ingrid Ely was found guilty of one count each of grand theft, conspiracy and embezzlement.

Prosecutor Carol Nelson hailed the probation department for doing a thorough job on Tom Ely’s pre-sentencing report.

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“They didn’t soft-pedal anything,” Nelson said.

She said she was pleased overall with the recommendations, although she said she would prefer to see Ely sentenced to at least three years in state prison.

“I think his attitude has been unbelievable,” Nelson said.

Ely’s attorney, James M. Farley, criticized the probation report, saying its recommendations are inappropriate.

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“They’re too stiff,” Farley said.

According to the report, prepared by Deputy Probation Officer Elizabeth A. Krene, Ely denied any wrongdoing but “in the next breath, he claimed he was ‘not the only one’ involved in such practices.”

“While the individual amounts taken were not very large, the acts were repetitive and manipulative, and he blatantly abused his position as a public figure,” wrote Krene, who interviewed Ely before preparing the report.

Krene wrote that a prison sentence for Ely was considered, “given the serious nature of the offense, the fact that the defendant has made no effort toward making restitution payments and shows no remorse.”

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But, according to the report, Ely, 55, has been publicly humiliated and branded a thief.

“He will never again hold public office,” Krene wrote.

As a result, officials recommended probation with the condition that Ely serve time in jail, “which would hopefully deter him from further criminality,” Krene wrote.

Officials are suggesting that Ely begin paying restitution to the district in July, 1992, at a rate of $400 a month, unless he is accepted into the county’s work furlough program. Currently, Ely does not qualify for the work program, mostly because of health problems.

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Ely expressed disbelief that “anyone would believe he would embezzle funds after having donated ’60,000 hours’ of his time as a public official,” the report said.

“He believed his conduct was legal and within the constraints of district policy,” Krene wrote. “However, it is unlikely that he believed his conduct was legal in every count.”

The pre-sentencing report also includes 20 letters from the Elys’ friends and family requesting leniency for the couple.

Among the letters are several from faculty and officials at Moorpark and Oxnard colleges.

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William Bendat, dean of student services at Moorpark College, wrote that Ely’s “discrepancies can hardly be viewed as so criminal to deserve incarceration.”

He urged Storch to “view the full picture and not the inflated snap-shots.”


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