- Former Erie City Council president Sonya Arrington will be convicted Tuesday in a federal fraud case
- The defense does not want anything more than house arrest
- In a new file, the US prosecutor is seeking a prison sentence of 27 to 33 months, says Arrington, “failed miserably” because he was a “model of integrity”.
For the US Attorney’s Office in Erie, the damage caused by the fraud case of Erie City Council President Sonya Arrington extends from her nonprofit to City Hall.
Quoting Arrington’s public position as well as her refusal to resign from the council following her 2018 indictment, the office calls on a judge to sentence her to jail according to recommended guidelines.
The guidelines stipulate a minimum of two years and three months and a maximum of two years and nine months if Arrington is convicted in the US District Court in Erie next Tuesday.
Arrington doesn’t want more than house arrest on her fraud case in which she pleaded guilty to embezzling tens of thousands of dollars from her nonprofit anti-violence organization, including while on the city council.
“Arrington’s behavior has diminished public confidence in elected officials at a time when public integrity is urgently needed,” said US assistant attorney Christian Trabold in a conviction record filed Tuesday. “Her refusal to step down as President of Erie City Council, knowing full well that she was guilty and confessed, cast a shame on the city council and undermined the body’s credibility.”
Trabold said Arrington’s refusal to step down contributed to the damage she was doing to public confidence in the commission of the underlying crime in her case – by embezzling $ 70,000 from her nonprofit Mothers Against Teen Violence and the money used to play at Presque Isle Downs & Casino and pay for personal expenses including a family vacation to Disney World. The fraud occurred from April 2012 to January 2018, Trabold said in the memo.
“As an elected official and organizer of charities, Arrington had an increased duty to be a model of integrity,” Trabold said. “She miserably failed to do this duty and is now not allowed to bypass prison.”
Arrington, 53, who pleaded guilty in October, was elected to the city council in 2015 and served as city council president in 2018, the same year she was indicted. Arrington did not resign after admitting embezzlement to the FBI and facing charges.
Arrington left the council in January 2020 after not calling for re-election in 2019, and ended her four-year term. While on the council, she asked the public for donations for MATV and elected officials, including Erie Mayor Joe Schember, who gave her $ 1,500 in January 2018, four months before Arrington was indicted in April 2018. The US prosecutor said Arrington used the $ 1,500 to pay her personal bills, not MATV.
“For over six years, Arrington has been pulling money from a charity that it allegedly founded to combat violence against young people,” Trabold said in his memo. “She used her charity as a personal slush fund to gamble, pay bills and go on vacation. Arrington sponsored her program after she was elected to a seat on Erie City Council by holding her trusted position as councilor and ultimately when the council chairman used to solicit donations which went straight to her pocket.
“Arrington’s brazen and relentless violation of the public’s trust calls for jail time within their scope of the sentencing guidelines.”
Against “downward variance”
Trabold submitted his 27-page memo in response to a February 5 conviction record from Arrington’s attorney Leonard Ambrose. He wants senior US District Judge David S. Cercone to deviate significantly from the sentencing guidelines – 27 to 33 months – and put Arrington on parole or house arrest with electronic surveillance. Arrington was free for an unsecured loan of $ 10,000.
Defense position:Letters from Anderson, Witherspoon cited as Arrington not seeking jail in Erie fraud case
Ambrose said in his 28-page memo that Arrington’s public service balances in their favor. He highlighted the initiative she took to set up MATV and use some of the money to fund anti-violence programs in response to the fatal shooting of her son Steve Arrington II, 19, in 2010. Arrington’s work at MATV helped propel them to a seat of the city council.
Ambrose tipped in 20 letters of support from Sonya Arrington’s family and friends, including Erie Alderman Melvin Witherspoon and Erie County Council Chairman Carl Anderson, who is running for district leadership.
Trabold pointed out the meaning of the letters in his memo. He said the letters and the tragic circumstances in which Arrington founded MATV failed to separate her case from other law enforcement activities and “did not change or mitigate her protracted breach of public trust.”
Pulled out case:The case was reactivated against the former President of Erie City Council
“Letters of support do not justify a significant downward deviation in this case. Most employees submit letters of support,” Trabold said in the memo. “Unsurprisingly, Arrington, as a past President of Erie City Council, submitted letters like this.”
“Violation of public trust”
Arrington pleaded guilty in October to a wire fraud count covering the entire embezzlement period and a misspelling count.
A tip from a bank clerk started the investigation that prompted the FBI to investigate Arrington. According to the US Attorney’s Office, the bank clerk reported that she may have been “involved in financial irregularities” due to the use of MATV’s funds.
Fees announced:The prosecution alleges that Arrington diverted $ 70,000 from nonprofits
In his verdict, Trabold said that from April 2012 to January 2018, Arrington used the MATV debit card 113 times to withdraw MATV funds from the ATM at Presque Isle Downs & Casino. He asked Judge Cercone to look into the extent of the financial fraud to see how a sentence could affect Arrington.
“The public trust violation is still the same regardless of the impact the conviction had on Arrington,” Trabold said in his memo. “She didn’t steal to pay unexpected medical bills or to alleviate someone else’s suffering.
“She took part in the program to gamble, pay bills, and keep her lifestyle going. That’s just, old-fashioned greed, not worthy of downward variance. Arrington did not hesitate to raid her charity and showed little concern for those who donate to their charity and the general public. “
Contact Ed Palattella at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ETNpalattella.