The operator of Earth n' Wood got probation and three days in jail.
CANTON A Jackson Township businessman convicted of workers' compensation fraud is to serve his three-day jail sentence this weekend.
A Stark County Common Pleas Court jury had found Craig C. Snee, 64, guilty of a fourth-degree felony count of the charge following a trial earlier this month.
Snee operates the Jackson Township-based Earth n' Wood, which sells mulch, top soil, stone and a variety of landscaping products.
At a sentencing hearing last week, Michael Bickis, an assistant Stark County prosecutor, said he had made Judge Chryssa Hartnett aware of an email written by the defendant in which he expressed his thoughts on his conviction.
"It has become apparent to me that you believe you are somehow a victim of the system," said Hartnett, referring to what she learned both during and after the trial. "And in no shape or form is that the case. This was purposeful conduct; it was you taking advantage of a situation that you thought would benefit you."
"I simply believe that you don't believe you engaged in criminal conduct and I think this is necessary to drive that point home," the judge added.
Besides the stint in jail, Snee was placed on two years probation and must complete 200 hours of community service and successfully complete a victim awareness program.
Snee hadn't faced prison time because he was convicted of a fourth-degree felony and didn't have a prior criminal record. Jurors determined the value of the workers' compensation premiums and assessments unpaid by Snee was between $7,500 and $150,000. The fraud allegations covered a period from 2011 to 2015.
The Stark County Prosecutor's Office had said that Snee, who served as a Jackson Township trustee in the 1980s and '90s, committed fraud when he underreported payroll at Earth n' Wood Products and misclassified some employees for workers' compensation purposes. Bickis had said in court that Snee's actions resulted in reduced workers' compensation premiums for the business.
The defense had argued to jurors that Snee was a hardworking businessman who didn't purposefully try to break the law or mislead auditors and investigators. Another defense point was that Snee didn't personally enrich himself.
The presentencing report in the case included letters expressing support for Snee.
At the sentencing hearing, Snee's attorney, Anthony Koukoutas, indicated his client plans on filing an appeal in the case.
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