CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Convicted Cross Lanes computer executive Martin Bowling was sentenced Tuesday to six months in federal prison and five years of probation for aggravated identity theft and his role in a state employment training grant scandal.
U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver also sentenced three others who misused a $100,000 federal grant, then took part in a scheme to cover up their misconduct.
Al Hendershot, 62, former publisher of West Virginia Executive and MetroValley magazines, was sentenced to six months at a federal work release center. Hendershot also must pay $5,000 in restitution and a $1,000 fine.
Mary Jane Bowling, 59, Bowling's mother and a former state official who steered the grant to her son's Cross Lanes marketing and publishing firm, received five years of probation and six months of home confinement. She was ordered to pay $11,663 in restitution and a $1,000 fine.
Her housemate, Christine Gardner, 58, a former West Virginia State University extension agent, received three months of probation, plus $5,000 in restitution and a $250 fine.
Copenhaver gave each of the four defendants sentences that fell below federal sentencing guidelines, noting that they had lost their jobs and would have a federal conviction on their record.
The four also had reached plea deals with federal prosecutors, saving the government the time and expense of seeking indictments.
Federal and state authorities started investigating the Bowlings, Hendershot and Gardner in March 2009, after The Charleston Gazette reported that Mary Jane Bowling used her job at Workforce West Virginia to award grant money to Cross Lanes-based Comar Inc., where her son Martin worked as chief technical officer.
In December, Mary Jane Bowling admitted that she forged a co-worker's signature to ensure her son's company received the grant. She also hand-delivered grant payments to Comar, and allowed Martin Bowling, 30, to use her credit card to charge expenses to the grant.
Mike Carey, Mary Jane Bowling's lawyer, told Copenhaver Tuesday that her former superior at Workforce West Virginia, Steve Dailey, knew her son worked at Comar, but nonetheless recommended that the firm be awarded the $100,000 grant.
The grant money paid for work never done, and for lavish resort stays, expensive bar tabs and an anti-aging conference where former Comar employees promoted the firm, in violation of the grant's rules.
Hendershot, Comar's former CEO, also used the grant money to buy a $3,500 digital camera that he later gave to a Comar employee to pay off a debt.
After Workforce West Virginia started reviewing the grant expenses, the Bowlings, Hendershot and Gardner took part in an elaborate cover-up, according to their plea agreements. The scheme included altered credit card receipts, phony documents, forged signatures, fake invoices and backdated checks.