ABINGDON, Va. — An emotional federal Judge James P. Jones on Tuesday sentenced former BVU Chief Financial Officer Stacey Pomrenke and her husband, former Judge Kurt Pomrenke, to prison for the second time, this time for defrauding the government.
Stacey Pomrenke, 48, of Abingdon, will serve 30 months and pay a $10,000 fine for fraudulently gaining entry to the federal Residential Drug Abuse Program in 2016 and 2017. She completed that program and received a seven-month reduction in the prison sentence for her previous convictions. Jones also sentenced her to three years of supervised release following incarceration.
Kurt Pomrenke, 67, was sentenced to 12 months and one day and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine. He is to be on supervised release for one year following incarceration.
Jones also presided over Stacey Pomrenke’s 2016 trial, when she was found guilty of federal corruption charges and Kurt Pomrenke’s guilty plea to contempt for attempting to contact potential witnesses prior to his wife’s trial.
“I gave you a break when I sentenced you before,” Jones told Stacey Pomrenke, who was sentenced first Tuesday via a video teleconference. “The guideline was over twice what I gave you. … I sentenced you to less than three years — 34 months. I did find good in you, and I felt it was a fair sentence for what I thought you had done. I didn’t think you were the worst person in the world, and I thought there were mitigating circumstances, and I recognized you were the focus of so much animosity in the community. The media was on you every day … and then you do this again.”
Jones said he regularly sentences people to prison “even though it’s tough.”
“Gosh, why did you do this? Human beings just puzzle me every day,” Jones said as Stacey Pomrenke could be heard crying. “Not only was it wrong to do this, it came right after you’d been convicted of fraud and public corruption. Here you engage in the same type of crime.”
The couple contracted with a Michigan firm, RDAP Law Consultants, which coached them on how to convince medical and prison officials that Stacey Pomrenke had a drinking problem, even though she didn’t, according to the plea agreement.
Jones cited a Bristol Herald Courier story questioning how Pomrenke was released from prison early. Bureau of Prison officials, at the time, declined comment about how or why and wouldn’t confirm that she completed a substance abuse program. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said it didn’t know and hadn’t sought the reduction.
“It is a miscarriage of justice for you to get into this program [RDAP]. … You would not have gotten into the RDAP program without lying about it. I’m sorry, but there is no way,” Jones said.
The judge praised the program, which he said helps people with methamphetamine, cocaine and other addictions and to which it is difficult to gain admission.
Jones said he wished he didn’t have to send her back to prison, but he had no choice. She replied, “I know that.”
Stacey Pomrenke told the court she made a “horrible decision” and wasn’t “thinking rationally.”
“I wish I would have ended that contract. I should have walked away from that contract,” she said. “What matters most to me is how my kids see me, and I have failed them. I am very sorry.”
Her sentence is above the federal sentencing guidelines of eight to 14 months and at the top of the zero to 30-month term contained in a November 2020 guilty plea agreement to a single felony charge of conspiracy to defraud the federal government. Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary Lee asked the court to impose the maximum 30-month sentence.
On two occasions, Stacey Pomrenke told federal officials she did not have any substance abuse problems. But in August 2016, the couple retained the Michigan firm and began formulating a scheme to get her admitted into the abuse program, court documents show.
When Stacey Pomrenke reported to the federal prison at Alderson, West Virginia, in 2016, she was intoxicated and under the influence of alcohol, documents show. During her initial health screen there, she told officials she “had been drinking at least a bottle of wine daily since 2008.”
Kurt Pomrenke was an active participant in the scheme and offered to promote the program, which Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary Lee called “reprehensible.”
“Much like his actions in his wife’s prior case — actions that led to his imprisonment and, ultimately, the loss of his judgeship, this defendant didn’t care what the law was or the right thing to do — he was willing to do whatever it took to get his wife out of prison,” Lee said.
The Supreme Court of Virginia removed Kurt Pomrenke from the bench in November 2017, following his previous contempt plea, and he lost his license to practice law for a time.
Kurt Pomrenke asked the court for probation or home confinement, but Jones rejected those requests.
“It wasn’t like he [Pomrenke] just sat back and said, ‘Honey, whatever you want to do. I wouldn’t do it if I were you.’ He actively participated in this,” Jones said. “This is someone who not only had a good reputation and was a judge. The Virginia Supreme Court spoke pretty harshly in another context, and they didn’t know anything about this — again for his wife.
“There is something about, ‘I’ll do anything for you, honey. I love you. But this is going so far beyond that,” Jones said. “Real love would have been using his sense of ethics — which he did have — to say, ‘No, you can’t do this. I’m not going to do this for you; you shouldn’t do this.’ I don’t understand this,” Jones said.
Both are to self-report, and Judge Jones will allow Kurt Pomrenke to serve his term first, since the couple has two teenage children.
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