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Ex-sheriff accused of theft is now free

 
BY JACLYN PITTS
MEDIA GENERAL NEWS SERVICE
Aug 17, 2006

MANASSAS -- A former Prince William County sheriff charged with larceny and embezzlement walked away from court a free man this week.

E. Lee Stoffregen III was accused of taking an AR-15 carbine rifle with him when he left office in late 2003 and of embezzling county money to bankroll his retirement party.

Stoffregen initially was charged with felony embezzlement and grand larceny. However, those charges were amended to misdemeanor embezzlement and petit larceny in exchange for a no contest plea he entered in February.

As part of an agreement with prosecutors, Stoffregen's charges were to be dropped if he returned the gun to the sheriff's office and paid the county $16,500 by May 15, which he did, King George County Commonwealth's Attorney Matthew J. Britton said.

During a pre-trial hearing in December, Stoffregen's defense attorney, Blair D. Howard, argued that the gun, a street version of the military's M-16, had been given to Stoffregen by a gun dealer and was his to keep after he left office.

Stoffregen also was accused of embezzling county money from an unreported bank account to bankroll his retirement party.

While in office, Stoffregen maintained two sheriff's office accounts that were reported to the county, as well as a third unreported account that held up to $20,000, Britton said in February. Britton was brought in to try the case to prevent a possible conflict of interest for local prosecutors.

Thousands of dollars from the unreported account were used to pay for Stoffregen's going-away party at a Marriott hotel after he lost the 2003 election to current Sheriff Glendell Hill, according to court records.

For prosecutors, the plea deal was a way to avoid what could have been a long and costly trial, Britton said.

Stoffregen said he was very pleased with the outcome of his case. "I want to thank my family and friends for supporting me and telling me to keep the faith," he said.

Stoffregen was the subject of a lengthy investigation that involved local authorities, state police and the FBI, Britton said. The investigation produced a lot of data, but only the gun theft and embezzlement allegations merited a trial, Britton said in February.