The county’s former Emergency Management Coordinator will spend at least 45 days in jail after having pled guilty to charges of identity theft and access device fraud last month.
Robert Thatcher Jr., 32, Hallstead, will also pay over $1,000 in fines and court costs as well as serve 25 hours of community service.
Last month Thatcher admitted to a slew of charges stemming from a series of events which occurred in June 2018.
During the guilty plea hearing in April, Thatcher admitted that he purchased $142.41 in truck parts online on June 11, 2018 in the victim’s name. The package was delivered to the county office building by Fed Ex and signed for by “R. Thatcher.”
Appearing for sentencing last Wednesday (May 1), before President Judge Jason Legg, Thatcher’s attorney Jason Beardsley blamed his client’s actions on trauma resulting from witnessing his father’s slow demise from pancreatic cancer.
Since his client’s crimes came to light, Beardsley also said that his client has been forced to endure turmoil because of adverse media attention.
“Was this a good decision?” Beardsley asked. “Did my client accept responsibility for his actions? Absolutely,” Beardsley said.
Thatcher now suffers from anxiety, a heart condition and post traumatic stress disorder, his attorney told the court.
“I just want to say I’m very sorry,” Thatcher said, addressing Legg and the victim, Paul Johnson, and his family. “I take full responsibility,” Thatcher said.
“I just want to apologize. I didn’t mean for this to happen,” he said.
Johnson took the stand to explain to the court how Thatcher’s theft of his identity has also stolen his faith and trust in people and his sense of security. He also said that Thatcher’s actions have caused him and his family continued problems with credit.
“I was once a very trusting person,” Johnson said.
Johnson said that Thatcher should suffer the same residual effects his actions have caused him to suffer, particularly considering his role as a public servant.
“Once criminal conduct of any sort enters that person’s life they should be excluded from public service,” Johnson said.
Asking Legg to impose a term of probation, Beardsley emphasized his client’s long years of public service starting as a firefighter at the age of 14 and later as an EMT. Thatcher has no prior criminal infractions and was kept from being a Pennsylvania State Trooper only due to his medical condition, Beardsley said.
Discounting the defendant’s claims that the crimes were a one time lapse in judgment, District Attorney Marion O’Malley pointed out how there were multiple purchases involved and that Thatcher was initially uncooperative and evasive when first interviewed by police, at first denying having ordered anything in Johnson’s name.
“Clearly Mr. Thatcher was not candid with law enforcement when this matter was initiated,” said O’Malley.
Rejecting Beardsley’s calls for leniency and a probationary sentence, Legg emphasized the “heavy burden” facing public figures that fall from grace due to their own criminal conduct. Legg also expressed some remaining confusion as to what motivated Thatcher to steal Johnson’s identity.
“I don’t feel I’ve been provided with a real explanation as to why this occurred,” said Legg, the former district attorney.
Legg sentenced Thatcher to serve 45 days to 18 months for access device fraud along with three concurrent sentences of 15 days to 18 months for identity theft. Other charges of possession of stolen property weren’t prosecuted.
Thatcher was immediately escorted out of the courtroom, down the hallway and outside to a waiting Sheriff’s Department vehicle.
Thatcher had been terminated from his position by the county commissioners on June 22, 2018 for reasons unrelated to his alleged criminal conduct.
Montrose Borough Police learned in June 2018 that the victim had been notified that applications for Capital One Bank and Citibank credit cards had been made in his name that he did not apply for.
Montrose Police Chief Dale Smith investigated and it was determined the Capital One card had been used to purchase fuel at a Sunoco station in Great Bend and for an online purchase.
The address on the card used for the purchase was 81 Public Ave., Montrose – the address of the county office building where Johnson had previously worked.
It was determined Johnson’s personal information – including his date of birth and social security number – would have been available to Thatcher.
In July 2018, police interviewed Thatcher at the Pennsylvania State Police, Gibson barracks. Thatcher at first denied any knowledge about the credit cards or truck parts before he was informed that he could be identified through the fictitious e-mail used in the transaction.
Thatcher told investigators he became nervous after he received the package and threw it in the dumpster the following day.
Shortly after Thatcher’s arrest, the county released a statement describing the case as an “isolated incident” and said that no other information – other than that associated with his victim – had been accessed.