KANSAS CITY, KAN. — Former Linn County Attorney John Sutherland, 68, of Mound City pleaded guilty April 24 to federal charges of stealing 350 to 500 items including electronics and equipment that belonged to the county, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister.
The estimated value of the items is $75,000.
Sutherland, who served as county attorney for about 20 years before leaving the job in January 2017, is charged with one count of mail fraud and one count of lying to federal investigators. The crimes are alleged to have taken place from sometime prior to January 2009 and continuing until Sutherland left office, according to the release.
In his plea, Sutherland admitted that on Feb. 6, 2019, FBI agents found 13 items stolen from Linn County when they searched Sutherland’s office at the Wyandotte County District Attorney’s Office. At the time, Sutherland was working as an assistant district attorney. One of the items was a stolen Apple laptop computer.
When FBI agents interviewed him, Sutherland denied any wrongdoing and made other false statements. For instance, he claimed that an Apple TV 64 GB video-streaming device the county purchased for about $220 had been destroyed. FBI agents found the device intact at Sutherland’s residence. They also found that Sutherland had given some of the stolen items to his adult children.
In his plea agreement, Sutherland agreed to pay full restitution and to surrender his license to practice law. The mail fraud count carries a penalty of up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000. The false statement count carries a penalty of up to five years and a fine up to $250,000, according to the release.
McAllister commended the FBI, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tris Hunt and Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Oakley for their work on the case.