Ocean City Today

Widgeon gets sentence reduction in theft

By Brian Gilliland | Jan 11, 2018
Mark Widgeon

(Jan. 12, 2018) Since he paid off the $150,000 in restitution owed to the Showell Volunteer Fire Department by the deadline of Nov. 30, 2017, Mark Widgeon, the department’s former treasurer, had his sentence reduced from five years to 18 months in Circuit Court on Tuesday.

Prosecutors opposed the sentence reduction, Deputy State’s Attorney Bill McDermott said.

Judge Broughton Earnest, who presided over the original case, also handled the sentence modification.

Widgeon paid $57,000 in late August 2017, and $93,000 by the November deadline.

He could be eligible for parole before those 18 months are up, McDermott said.

Widgeon was originally sentenced in August to the maximum penalty — 15 years in jail, with 10 years suspended by the judge along with the restitution and five years of supervised probation after pleading guilty to felony theft scheme.

Widgeon’s scheme began in 2009 and was discovered in 2013 after his fifth drunk driving conviction. He was convicted of using debit cards associated with fire department accounts to make cash withdrawals exceeding $100,000.

He was convicted of using fire department funds to pay for vehicle repairs, airplane tickets, clothes, gifts, jewelry, medical expenses, alcohol counseling, online dating services plus lodging and bar tabs in several states.

Harry Hammond Jr., a three-decade veteran with the fire department, took over as treasurer in January 2014.

“As he took more money, the fire department became financially unstable,” he said at the time of the conviction. “It almost caused the doors to be shut for good for the Showell Volunteer Fire Department.”

Speaking prior to sentencing, Widgeon characterized himself as a “lost person.”

“It’s almost a blur now,” he said at the time. “When I look back, it’s trying to have things I couldn’t and be someone I couldn’t be.”

In considering sentencing, Earnest said while Widgeon does not present a physical danger to the community, there is a clear and present danger of another sort.

“The organization that provided the keys to the coffers was a nonprofit,” he said. “The harm is more diffuse because it affects the whole community.”

Based on the wealth of examples indicating the wide array of spending undertaken by Widgeon, Earnest said he had to side with the state’s argument.

“It’s one thing to take money for food to eat,” he said. “I’m inclined to agree with the state: This was greed.”

Among the numerous aggravating and mitigating circumstances Earnest cited were the length of time involved in the theft scheme.

“One of the ironies … a man who apparently had an alcohol problem of a serious nature and he steals money to pay for his alcohol treatment,” he said. “If that’s not ironic I don’t know what is.”

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