By Patty Wooten
THE COMMERCIAL STAFF (from Pine Bluff, ARKANSAS)
MONTICELLO - A Georgia man, who apparently preyed on highly educated, financially self-sufficient, single women, was convicted Friday of scamming a Monticello woman he met on a Web site for singles.
During a trial before Circuit Judge Sam Pope, Christopher J. Powell was sentenced to eight years in prison for theft, six years for computer fraud and three years for failure to appear at his first trial in August. The three sentences will run concurrently. Pope also ordered Powell to pay the woman $15,000 restitution upon his release from prison.
Powell's victim, a university administrator, said the 48-year-old man romanced, deceived and proposed marriage to her to obtain money during their 6-month relationship.
She said Powell contacted her in March 2004 by e-mail through a Web site after seeing her profile online. He presented himself as an unmarried sergeant major in the U.S. Army but she would learn later, after he bilked her out of more than $15,000, he was actually a married, lay minister with a young child.
The woman testified that he once needed money because he had been ambushed in Iraq and needed to get to Germany. On another occasion, he said he needed money to save the family farm from the IRS.
Eventually, the woman became suspicious and contacted police.
After hearing the woman's story, Lt. John Dement, a criminal investigator with the Monticello Police Department, contacted Janet Wilson, an Alabama crime analyst, who located Powell within two hours.
He was arrested at his Lawrenceville, Ga., home on Oct. 9, 2004, his 47th birthday.
At trial, State Police Special Agent Scott Woodward read a transcript of his interview with Powell after his arrest. Powell admitted he was playing a role. He said he created a facade to impress the woman and to provide himself a "safeguard" because he was married.
He also admitted asking for and receiving money from her.
Though Powell told Woodward he'd never done anything like that before, police would soon learn otherwise.
A Texas woman testified that she married Powell in 2001, not knowing he was already married. When she discovered he was already married she had her marriage annulled. He was convicted of bigamy and she was awarded a civil judgment against him.
In his closing statement before sentencing, 10th Judicial District Chief Deputy Prosecutor David Cason told Pope that Powell is predatory.
Powell's defense attorney, Josh McHughes of Little Rock, said Powell did not initiate the relationship and the money was a loan. He said no crime was committed but if there was a theft, it occurred in Georgia, where he received the money, not Arkansas. (typical!! Wasn't me - it was HER!)
Powell apologized to the woman before sentencing saying, given the opportunity, he would make restitution.
(About that last sentence? Let's SEE if he REALLY makes restitution that or was, once again, just USING WORDS to try to gain his target's and the court's sympathy? - Fighter)