Two men who rigged a scheme to cheat Augusta Newsprint Corp. out of more than $30,000 narrowly escaped prison Friday.
U.S. District Court Senior Judge Dudley H. Bowen Jr. found that extenuating circumstances justified sentencing Eddie Quarles of McCormick, S.C., and Steven L. Freeman, of Grovetown, to five years’ probation instead of 18 months in prison, which the federal sentencing guidelines recommended. Neither man had any criminal history, and both have family support and employment.
There was also the issue of the long delay between the commission of the crime – from 2008 to February 2009 – and the conclusion of the case on Friday, Bowen said.
According to the indictment, Quarles, the owner of Quarles Pulp and Logging, and Freeman, who was a scale operator for Augusta Newsprint, worked together to cash bogus receipts for payment 50 times. They each pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud, and the remaining 48 counts were dismissed.
The judge warned both men that any misstep during the next five years will mean prison. The pair is responsible for $30,708 in restitution. Their probation includes six months of home confinement and four weekends in jail.