Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

Opinion

February 26, 2014

Plea deal pays to fraud crime victims

GLASGOW — It seems that American society often views criminal justice through a black-and-white prism of incarceration. Jail time equals justice. No jail means a perpetrator has gotten off soft, or perhaps gotten away with a crime altogether.

This, of course, is an oversimplification of our country’s complex legal system, and we saw in Barren County this week an example of justice being served more rapidly and more beneficially to the victims precisely because jail time was avoided.

The unfortunate case surrounding Michael H. Richardson and his wife, Lana Richardson, who admitted to operating a fraudulent dental business in Glasgow in 2011 and 2012, has been a curiosity since the accusations surfaced. It’s tough to be surprised anymore by the illegal methods people use to make money, but fake dentistry, frankly, isn’t something we hear about every day. In hindsight, though, it’s easy to understand why it might be a lucrative endeavor – dentistry is not an business in which customers in this area are conditioned to worry about scams.

Not only did the Richardsons accept money in exchange for unlicensed and unsatisfactory dental and denture work, they violated the trust of people in our community who needed care. The latter is the most egregious of the couple’s transgressions, and on that point, we certainly wouldn’t object if the Richardsons were tossed into a couple of cells.

But Commonwealth’s Attorney John Gardner recognized that many victims in this case still need financial help to correct the problems caused by the Richardsons’ fraudulent practices, and that the Richardsons would have no legal obligation to contribute if they were locked up. So, Gardner made it a priority to negotiate a plea agreement in which restitution is a key component, and Barren Circuit Court Judge Phil Patton formalized the sentence Monday.

The couple could have gone to prison for five years, but they’ll avoid that by adhering to the terms of a three-year probation and by continuing to pay restitution to the people they deceived. The Richardsons have already paid more than $27,000 that will be distributed to the victims, and they are required to pay $100 a month until their obligations are met.

It’s not a perfect resolution, but there’s really no such thing after a crime has been committed. In this instance, we’re glad the Richardsons have been ordered to quickly pay back the actual victims, rather than making the victims wait – possibly for years – until a prison sentence has been served.

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