Linville Was “Bernie Madoff” Of Fuel Delivery In Ripley County
By Mike Perleberg
Steven Linville. Photo by Ripley County Sheriff’s Office.
(Ripley County, Ind.) – A co-op employee who bilked dozens of local businesses out of fuel has been sent to prison.
Steven Linville, of Osgood, was in Ripley County Superior Court on Thursday where he received a sentence of 12 years in prison and three years on probation.
The 48-year-old had pleaded guilty last October to three counts of Theft (level 6 felony) and three counts of Delivery of False Sales Documents (level 6 felony). In exchange for the plea, 28 other counts were dismissed.
Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of 15 years with five years suspended to probation, and Linville’s defense attorney solely requested probation and/or community corrections. Judge Ryan King’s sentence was ultimately harsher than either of those.
Linville was the fuel manager for Laughery Valley Ag Co-Op for several years. Two years ago, he was accused of scheming to short customers fuel between October 2014 and October 2015. The extra fuel was then sold to a service station in Osgood owned by his uncle, Ripley County Commissioner Bob Linville.
Only the thefts between 2014 and 2015 were encompassed in the charges, but King noted that other thefts were allegedly committed outside that window. King considered that an aggravating factor in rendering the sentence.
The owner of Laughery Valley Ag Co-Op told the judge the thefts scheme amounted to more than $369,000 over the years. Due to the limits by the charges, Linville was only ordered to repay $98,310 in restitution to the co-op.
But the harm to Linville’s former employer goes beyond the money. Its reputation has also taken a hit. The court had heard testimony from James “Keith” Everhart, the general manager of Laughery Valley Ag Co-Op.
“The damage done to the victim from the wedge driven by the Defendant between the victim and its customers is palpable,” King said.
Linville was a middle man between the co-op and its more than 350 customers. The judge called the thefts a two-pronged violation of trust.
Steven Linville recognized that his crimes have embarrassed “certain persons that had nothing to do with his criminal enterprise,” King noted.
Customers of Laughery Valley Ag Co-Op who believe they had also been victimized by Linville’s scheme were in the courtroom. Those alleged victims said they were told by prosecutors that while their losses were believed to be real, they could not be proven in court.
Those customers tell Eagle Country 99.3 they noticed suspicious activity by Steven Linville when he would come to fill their tanks, such as his refusal to provide tickets for the fuel delivered. One customer said they reviewed the fuel purchasing records after Linville’s arrest, realizing he had on one occasion purported to put significantly more fuel into a storage tank than the tank could actually hold.
Many of those businesses never suspected Linville, who they described as respectful and friendly when making the deliveries. When their fuel repeatedly ran out before it should have, those business owners began to suspect their own employees or family members of stealing it.
“He was a Bernie Madoff. It was terrible. We should have suspected him,” said one co-op customer, who asked to remain unidentified.
The 15-year sentence for Linville was well-received by the dozens of businesses who likely won’t see any restitution.
“I was absolutely happy, because, first of all, you’re not going to get any money out of him anyway,” the customer said.
Another customer said they wished Linville would have received more jail time.
Bob Linville could not be reached for comment by phone at his home or business Friday morning.