Dads Against the Divorce Industry

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Woman: Money given for sex

  • Suspect seeking to change plea in alleged theft of $380,000

    By Riva Brown

    A Starkville woman who admitted to stealing more than $380,000 from a law firm to pay for items ranging from breast implants to student loans now says her boss gave her the money for sexual favors.

    But Angela M. Poole's former boss, Flowood lawyer Tom Rhoden, denies her claims.

    U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate is expected to decide today whether Poole can withdraw her guilty plea and get an evidentiary hearing.

    Poole, 30, pleaded guilty Jan. 7 to 15 counts of mail fraud and three counts of tax evasion for writing checks from Rhoden's law firm to pay her credit card bills and other personal debts. She faces up to five years and a $250,000 fine on each count.

    "Angela Poole did not realize that the fact that the money was a gift in exchange for certain favors in a sexual nature from her employer constituted a defense to the crimes charged," says a motion filed in federal court Tuesday.

    "He (Rhoden) did not specifically authorize each and every check written but gave her general permission to pay her bills and acknowledged through his comments to her that he knew she was doing so," the motion says.

    Rhoden said Wednesday that Poole is a "confessed thief" who is "doing everything she can to avoid prison, which she so richly deserves."

    "I didn't authorize her to take any money or give her any money, and it's just a lie and I guess it doesn't surprise me considering where it comes from," Rhoden said. "I never had any kind of sexual contact with her whatsoever and never expected to have any."

    Poole admitted to the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service that she stole the money, said Assistant U.S. Attorney John Dowdy, who is prosecuting the case.

    And in a Feb. 11 presentencing report, Poole said, "Mr. Rhoden never really crossed the line with me. He probably never would have."

    Dowdy, noting Poole's sentencing has been continued at least three times, said Poole's story about Rhoden has no credence, and there is no evidence to substantiate it.

    "She's trying to manipulate this court into prolonging the inevitable," Dowdy said.

    Cynthia Stewart, who is representing Poole with attorney Samuel Wilkins, had no comment.

    Poole also wrote checks to herself for cash and told federal agents that she could easily charge $500 during her lunch hour purchasing clothing, Dowdy said. She also charged breast implants and paid for in vitro fertilization on her credit card.

    Poole also purchased two computers, a four-wheeler and a large-screen television. She also used cash taken from Rhoden's account to pay on outstanding student loans and to help purchase two Dodge Durangos, a Chevy Tahoe Sport, a Jeep Wrangler, a boat, furniture, a residential lot and several out-of-town trips to locations including Dallas, Memphis, New Orleans and Gulf Shores, Ala.

    Poole says in a affidavit filed Tuesday she would not have pleaded guilty had she known she could use the money being given as a gift as a defense.

    Dowdy, who noted that Poole does not say she is innocent in the affidavit, said that defense has been rejected in other cases.

    "Case law is squarely against the argument that is being made by the defendant," Dowdy said. "She has not met the requisite showing as required by the law, and legally and factually her claim has no merit."

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