Crime

Ex-Wyandotte County prosecutor pleads guilty to stealing from public at former post

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A former assistant district attorney in Wyandotte County pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal charges that he stole equipment from Linn County, where he previously served as the county attorney.

The items were estimated to have been worth $75,000, authorities said.

FBI agents Feb. 6 searched Sutherland’s office at the Wyandotte County District Attorney’s Office and found 13 items stolen from Linn County, including a laptop, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Kansas, which released a statement about the charges Wednesday.

John Sutherland, 68, of Mound City, Kansas, served as Linn County’s attorney for about 20 years. He is charged with mail fraud and lying to investigators. He stole 350 to 500 items, including electronics and equipment, from before 2009 until he left the office in January 2017, according to federal prosecutors.

As the county’s top attorney, Sutherland had the authority to buy goods and services for the Linn County attorney’s office. Instead, he “devised and executed a scheme to defraud Linn County” by purchasing items for himself, according to court documents.

Sutherland, for example, bought an Apple TV 64 GB video-streaming device, a purchase that cost the county $220, federal court records show. He then lied about the computer, which was found intact at his home, investigators said.

Agents also discovered Sutherland gave some of the stolen items to his adult children, federal officials said. Interviewed by the FBI, Sutherland initially denied any wrongdoing, court records show.

Efforts to reach Sutherland directly were not immediately successful.

Sutherland’s attorney, Robin Fowler, said Sutherland’s guilty plea meant he was taking responsibility for his actions.

“He deeply regrets his actions and apologizes to the public for the harm he has caused,” Fowler said.

Wyandotte County District Attorney spokesman Jonathan Carter said Sutherland was no longer employed with the office as of Feb. 8, two days after FBI agents searched his office.

As part of his plea agreement, Sutherland agreed to pay restitution and surrender his law license, according to prosecutors.

Sutherland faces up to 25 years in federal prison. The mail fraud count carries up to 20 years and a fine of as much as $250,000 while the false statement count carries up to five years and a fine up to $250,000.

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