Shari Brentin will spend a year in prison for her role in defrauding an elderly Woodland woman out of nearly $24,000 in late 2011, Cowlitz Superior Court Judge Michael Evans ruled Thursday. The sentence is four times harsher than the standard range.
Evans also sentenced Brentin’s husband, former Woodland fire chief Tony Brentin, to six months in jail, twice the standard range. He agreed with Deputy Prosecutor James Smith that Shari Brentin took a more direct role in the crime by actually bringing the victim, Suzanne Faveluke, to a credit union to withdraw the money.
A jury on March 25 found the couple guilty of first-degree theft by deception.
Evans allowed the couple a week to put their belongings in storage and make arrangements for their animals. They must report to the Cowlitz County Jail by noon May 8. Evans denied their attorneys’ motion for an appeal bond, so the Brentins will stay in jail while their case is under appeal.
The Brentins waived their right to address the court during the sentencing hearing.
Before passing sentence, Evans said he read through letters from the Brentins’ numerous supporters in which words such as generous, kind, good, helpful and caring were liberally used to describe them.
He said he also noted the good works the couple have done in the community, and that they have no criminal history.
“I tend to agree: The Brentins have lived a good life,” he said. “They’re not the typical person I see in front of my court.”
He speculated aloud that the Brentins were “good, upstanding leaders” who found themselves in “difficult financial straits.” With Faveluke’s reputation for generosity, “the temptation was there.”
But Evans said he has “a lot of concern” about crime that preys on the elderly. Faveluke, 75, sat in the back row at the Brentins’ sentencing but did not make a statement in court. Smith described her repeatedly Thursday as “vulnerable.”
Prosecutors said Tony Brentin, 52, who retired from the Woodland Fire Department in 2009, got Faveluke to give him $5,000 for his foundering Woodland City Council campaign, then spent the money on long-overdue rent. Brentin lost the election.
Shari Brentin, 48, was convicted of convincing Faveluke, an animal lover, that her cat was dying of cancer. Faveluke handed over thousands of dollars for care of Brentin’s cat, Mr. Socks, which didn’t have cancer.