Man gets six months on embezzlement

Published 9:33 pm Monday, March 18, 2019

A Suffolk man was sentenced Monday to six months to serve on two charges of embezzling from the Holland Volunteer Fire Department.

Charles Paul Riehle, the former chief of the department, was charged with embezzling more than $10,000 during a six-month period from June to December 2016.

“This is a case of public trust,” said Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Thomas Shaia. Riehle was “in charge of the monetary keeping of a volunteer fire department where individuals, including the city, kindly donated money to the volunteer fire department, and the defendant acts as if it’s his own money.”

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The theft started shortly after Riehle became chief. At one point, his paycheck from his day job with the federal government was even being deposited into the fire department’s bank account, Shaia said.

“He literally acted as if the account were his own,” Shaia said in Circuit Court on Monday morning.

Riehle’s defense attorney, Mike Eberhardt, pointed out that Riehle didn’t have so much as a speeding ticket on his record and already lost his federal job due to the charges.

“He’s now a two-time convicted felon,” Eberhardt said, noting the loss of civil rights that comes with that. “That is a terrible punishment.”

Eberhardt asked for no jail time, but Shaia argued that Riehle should serve a year in jail due to the egregious nature of the charges.

Circuit Court Judge Robert H. Sandwich Jr. met them in the middle.

“Your situation is one that causes me a lot of concern because of the trust that was placed in you over a period of time,” Sandwich said.

On each count, Sandwich sentenced Riehle to four years and suspended three years and nine months of that, leaving an active sentence of six months. He allowed Riehle to delay reporting to Western Tidewater Regional Jail until April 5.

Riehle also will be eligible for a work release program so he can keep his job driving a truck for a cabinet maker.

Riehle was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $8,649.39 to the city of Suffolk and $1,718.31 to BB&T at the rate of no less than $200 a month.

Riehle originally was charged with seven counts of embezzlement, but five were not prosecuted as part of a plea agreement. He was found guilty in December.

After the court hearing, Shaia said that Riehle’s theft helped lead to the demise of the Holland Volunteer Fire Department as an organization. It ceased operation in June 2018.