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Virginia meter repairman pleads guilty to theft of $100,000

By Zach Borenstein     Jun 19, 2009 in Crime
In the movie “Cool Hand Luke,” the late Paul Newman plays an inmate who wins the hearts and respect of his fellow prisoners by going against authority. His unwavering opposition of power, however, ultimately leads to his untimely death by gunshot.
The reason it all got started? Luke stole money from parking meters in town.
Perhaps Luke’s was a bizarre and severe punishment for such a crime, but the outlook isn’t too good for Virginia resident William Jonas Fell, who is guilty of the same.
The 61- year-old parking meter repairmen stole more than $100,000 over time and on Thursday plead guilty to two counts of embezzling public funds. He faces a maximum of 40 years in prison.
Fell was arrested in April after $100,000 in cash and $7,100 in nickels, dimes, and quarters, were discovered in his home in Aquia Harbor. Fell claimed he had only stole $30,000 but it was proven he stole at least $100,000. Police estimate it was actually closer to $107,000. He had been working in Alexandria for more than 16 years.
The hearing took place at the Alexandria Circuit Court, where Fell was taking the money. Fell reached a plea deal and will pay -- you guessed it -- $107,000 in restitution and forfeit two trucks he owns: a 2001 Nissan pickup and a 1999 GMC. He has been in jail since April 15, and he will be sentenced on July 23.
A supervisor in the Department of Transportation and Environmental Services became suspicious when collection revenue was dropping, and while following Fell one morning, he caught him stealing money. Alexandria Police then installed a video camera in his city truck to secretly record his crimes from Jan. 22 until March 16, later reporting that Fell would arrive before his shift at four in the morning to take advantage of darkness to steal what could be as many as a million coins.
Other evidence also hinted towards the crime, as Fell was spending more than his $57,000 salary would allow, such as $22,000 he used toward a line of credit he acquired to finance home improvements.
This reporter, however, is a firm believer that there are two sides to every story. With the United States economy in an undisputed recession, many people face hard times, and it is such times when people are forced to be creative to get back on top, and none would say Fell’s efforts were anything short of imaginative, unless he did, in fact, steal the idea from “Cool Hand Luke.”
Besides his blank record, there is also nothing to suggest Fell has criminal intentions. As his attorney, Greg English, says, “This is a case of a good person who lived a blameless life who did something incredibly stupid.” You also cannot doubt his commitment, getting to his post before 4 a.m., a time many people probably have not seen in years.
Fell might even appear as a vigilante to some, stealing from a government that gains every time we park in a certain location or drive on a certain road. Perhaps Robin Hood would be a better comparison.
Also, to say he is embezzling public funds is somewhat of a misnomer, as the change he took was already, willingly given up by each respective person who parked, not knowing exactly where the money was going, but knowing that their change would ensure them a parking spot and that when they returned to their car, their would not be an outlandishly overpriced ticket on their car.
On the other hand, this society clearly needs to reprimand anyone who steals, regardless of their intentions, to maintain some sort of order. The degree to which they are punished should depend on their motive and intentions, but nonetheless, all robberies should be assessed. The idea of Robin Hood is very appetizing, especially to someone who pulls their weight at a jab for half of their life and still struggles to make ends meet or ever retire. But again, knowing there are two sides to every story, a modern day Robin Hood may never know who he was stealing from, and just because a person is wealthy, doesn’t mean they have wronged to achieve their status.
Plus, “Cool Hand Will Jonas” doesn’t really have the same ring to it.
More about William jonas fell, Robbery, Embezzle, Alexandria, Virginia
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