A York City man who initially avoided conviction on theft charges for stealing thousands of dollars from a local attorney has now been sentenced and ordered to pay $25,000 in restitution.
Stephen Lee Newport, 61, of Prospect Street in York City, pleaded guilty last week to one count of first-degree misdemeanor theft. As part of his plea agreement, a felony theft charge was dropped, court records state.
"I totally trusted this guy," attorney Mike Fenton told The York Dispatch in February 2012, when charges were filed against Newport. "You just don't expect to be screwed by someone you've treated so well."
Fenton said he considered the man a close friend for nearly two decades.
Newport is the husband of Fenton's longtime secretary, who resigned "with hardly any explanation" in September 2011 after 18 years of working for the attorney, court documents state.
ARD program: In November 2012, Newport was accepted into the county's Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program, which allows first-time nonviolent offenders to avoid convictions by instead completing court-ordered requirements, including community service and paying restitution.
A year later, the district attorney's office asked presiding Common Pleas Judge Michael E. Bortner to remove Newport from the ARD program and reactivate his criminal case, which Bortner did in December 2013.
Deputy prosecutor Justin Roberts said the main reason Newport was kicked out of ARD was because he wasn't making the payments in his case. He also had not performed his required community service, the prosecutor said.
After pleading guilty to misdemeanor theft on July 31, Newport was sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to pay $25,000 in restitution, Roberts said.
The case: Starting in September 2005, Newport managed a property at 875 Prospect St. for Fenton. Newport was supposed to collect rent from tenants and pay the mortgage on the property, York City Police have said.
Instead, the mortgage wasn't paid and the property went into foreclosure, court documents state.
Police said Newport collected rent but didn't pay the mortgage, and also allowed outstanding sewer and refuse bills to reach about $3,000, police said.
Fenton has said that in total, Newport stole about $18,000 from him.
But Fenton incurred extra costs to get the property out of foreclosure, meaning his total loss was about $25,000, Roberts said.
"I have no idea why he would do this to me," Fenton said in 2012.
Halfway house: Fenton said Newport persuaded him to buy the property and rent it to people recovering from addictions, as a halfway house for them. Fenton said he agreed because he wanted to do something good for the community.
"I had complete faith in him that he would do this properly," the attorney said. "This guy had a real-estate broker's license."
He said he realized something was wrong after Newport's wife resigned.
Public defender Catherine Himes, who represents Newport, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.