2012-02-09 / Local & State

Couple Given Jail Time In Family Theft

Craig and Missi Carnell ordered to pay almost $200K restitution
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz

William Carnell William Carnell A husband and wife from the southern end of the county were sent to a state correctional institution Tuesday for “misappropriating” a substantial sum of money belonging to the manís mother, disabled brother and the United Cerebral Palsy foundation.

Forty-nine-year-old William Craig Carnell and Melissa “Missi” Carnell, 51, of 5809 Pleasant Grove Road, Warfordsburg, appeared before Fulton County Court of Common Pleas Judge Richard J. Walsh to bring to a finale the case that got under way in March 2011.

Missi Carnell had previously entered a “no contest” plea to two counts of theft by unlawful taking and one count each of criminal conspiracy to commit theft and theft by failure to make required disposition of funds received, said Tony Forray of the state attorney generalís office.

Due to the large sum of money as well as multiple victims involved, Forray noted to the court he did not recommend the probationary sentence suggested by the defense. He added it was a “serious case.”

Melissa Carnell Melissa Carnell “This proceeding needs to focus on the actions and the seriousness of those actions,” he concluded.

Speaking in her own defense, Missi Carnell told the judge, “I wanted to say I can only try and convey Iím sorry for all of the anguish Iíve caused...I pray for forgiveness everyday.”

In begging the court for mercy, she said she stood before the judge with both humbleness and humility.

The judge in turn ordered Missi Carnell to 18 to 96 months in a state correctional institution (SCI). However, due to her eligibility in the RRRI program that sentence can be reduced to a minimum 13 1/2 months, which will be followed by 14 years probation.

Meanwhile, a motion to withdraw Craig Carnellís “no contest” plea on two counts of theft by unlawful taking and one count of criminal conspiracy to commit theft by unlawful taking was dismissed by Judge Walsh. The judge learned from Craig Carnell he was “influenced” to withdraw his plea when he reviewed a recommendation for jail time made by the Fulton County Probation Department.

Walsh said there “appears to be a testing of the system in this case.”

“Today you expressed innocence...,” Walsh told Craig Carnell. “I believe that to be a manipulation. I believe youíre doing what you need to do to avoid sentencing today.”

Forray told the court Craig Carnell was the sole bread-winner in the family making approximately $40,000 annually. However, between 2006 and 2007, the couple spent upwards of $170,000.

Defense Attorney Forest Morgan countered Missi Carnell was the “brains of the operation” as she maintained complete and total financial control of the familyís finances. Morgan then explained the purchase of a backhoe and trailer were made for the preparation of land and the eventual placement of a mobile home for Craigís mother and victim, Margaret “Peggy” Carnell. Describing his client as a “blue collar guy,” the defense attorney said he was going to do the work himself.

Judge Walsh agreed Craig Carnell was certainly not the brains of the operation and appeared to be a “follower and not a leader.” Hoping to get him back on the streets to pay back any restitution owed, Craig Carnell was sentenced by Walsh to between 15 and 96 months in a SCI. Due to RRRI eligibility, the sentence was in turn reduced to 11 months, seven days. It will be followed by 7 years probation.

The Carnells were jointly ordered to pay back restitution in the amount of $180,000 to Peggy Carnell and an additional $15,000 to John Carnell. Missi Carnell will also pay back a total of $4,299 to United Cerebral Palsy. Furthermore, they are both forbidden to serve in the capacity of caretaker in the future and are forbidden to have contact with the victims.

The thefts in this case date back to late 2005 through early 2008. The Carnells, coincidentally, became powers of attorney for the two immediate family members in 2006. Furthermore, Peggy Carnell suffered a stroke in January 2008 and became more removed from overseeing her finances, an affidavit of probable filed in the case indicates. John Carnell is deaf, speech impaired and requires the use of a wheelchair as he suffers from cerebral palsy. At the time he was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

During that time period John reportedly resided with his mother at what was referred to as the Carnell homestead. Using money belonging their elderly mother, two acres located adjacent to family property were allegedly purchased by Craig and Missi utilizing Peggyís money. A doublewide mobile home was also bought and placed on the two-acres where Peggy and her disabled son would temporarily reside until the trailer was repossessed and sold due to nonpayment, charging documents maintain. It was further stipulated in the affidavit, “...By January 2008 Peggy was left with virtually no assets in banks, a $120,000 mortgage on a home that she no longer occupied and more than $43,000 in credit card debt.”

In addition, a handicapped accessible bathroom with a special-order shower/ tub was to be constructed for John in the doublewide trailer he previously shared with his mother. The construction was to be covered by funding through the United Cerebral Palsy Association of the Southern Alleghenies region. The bathroom was never completed after the shower/tub company was unable to make payment arrangements with Missi Carnell.

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