Woman pleads guilty to taking 27 iPhones


BUCKHANNON — A woman admitted to taking 27 iPhones from a local retailer to support her opiate addiction in a plea hearing Friday in Upshur County Circuit Court.

Hillary M. Struble, 28, entered guilty pleas to grand larceny and forgery, both felonies, before Judge Kurt Hall. By entering the pleas to information, Struble waived presentation of the cases to the grand jury.

Under the terms of a plea agreement reached with prosecuting attorney David Godwin, the pleas will be temporarily set aside, giving Struble three years to successfully complete a supervised probation period and pay back approximately $20,000 in restitution. Struble would then return to the court where she would plead guilty to two misdemeanor counts of fraudulent schemes and be sentenced by the court.

In November 2016, Struble told Hall that she was looking for a way to obtain opiate pills and stole the phones.

Similarly, Struble said that a Dec. 27, 2016 forgery case was to obtain money to buy pills.

“I became addicted to opiates,” she said. “I wasn’t in the right state of mind and I was willing to do anything to get the money.”

Struble and her co-defendant in the forgery case, Evan Wright, 24, were arrested seven months ago for two counts of forgery and uttering for writing checks on the account of Robert and Tamera Wright, according to a previous article.

On Friday, Struble pled guilty to one of the counts and admitted to forging a check on the Wright’s account for $170.

No reference was made during the hearing to the status of Wright’s case.

However, the total amount of restitution for the forgery case was named at $1,825.49.

It was agreed that Struble would be responsible for half of that restitution along with the full $18,973.76 in restitution for the iPhone 6 models taken from Sprint in Buckhannon.

Since her arrest, Struble told the court she had successfully completed a 90-day drug treatment in the southern part of the state and was attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings and completing the steps in that program.

She said she had about a week to consider her plea and had talked to her attorney, M. Roman, and her family.

Hall noted Struble had no prior criminal history and had 3 ½ years of college education.

“You don’t appear to be the average person we see in here with these issues,” he said.

The judge warned Struble that her “life hangs in the balance” with regard to successfully completing the supervised probation and repaying restitution to avoid the felony convictions.

“There’s no reason you can’t do it,” he said.

Judge Jacob Reger sentenced Sondra Rae Sprouse, 25, to an indeterminate sentence of one to 10 years for forgery. Sprouse was indicted in September for two counts of forgery and two counts of uttering, felonies. Under a plea agreement reached, the state agreed to dismiss the remaining counts of the indictment.

Sprouse was also ordered to repay $500 to First Community Bank.

Reger said he was denying the request for alternative sentencing or home confinement because of Sprouse’s failure to show up in the pre-sentencing phase.

Noting Sprouse wanted to get help for drug and alcohol addiction, he said that trying to do that during the sentencing phase of a case is too late.

The judge said he would recommend that Sprouse go to a prison facility with drug and alcohol addiction treatment available.

“However this goes, I hope you get the help you need,” he said.

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