LISBON - Kevin Ehrenberg, the man accused of misrepresenting himself as the CEO of housing for Chesapeake, will spend only one year in the county jail and another indefinite term receiving counseling at the Eastern Ohio Correctional Center on 11 theft-related charges.
Ehrenberg, 52, used the bogus title to spend more than $21,000 belonging to a New Waterford couple and having another $31,000 in contract work done without the means to pay for it.
Ehrenberg, no address listed, appeared for sentencing Monday in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court.
Despite objections made by Assistant County Prosecutor Ryan Weikart - who was requesting a nine-month prison sentence - Judge C. Ashley Pike said he had to follow the legislative guidelines for fourth- and fifth-degree felonies.
Defense attorney Charley Kidder had noted Ehrenberg did not deny what happened and state legislative guidelines recently put in place would point toward only local incarceration or even probation for someone convicted of those crimes. Especially, Kidder noted, when that person has no previous felonies or even any traffic citations.
While the charges Ehrenberg pleaded to in July were all felony fours or felony fives, Weikart noted there were 11 of them plus he used deception in committing the crimes. He pleaded to misuse of credit cards, three counts forgery, three counts receiving stolen property and four counts theft.
According to Weikart, Ehrenberg represented himself as Kevin Sabatino, the CEO of housing for Chesapeake. He approached Jeff and Linda Flowers, a New Waterford couple who own duplexes, to allow him to utilize those homes for Chesapeake employees. He convinced them upgrades needed to be made to the homes before the gas and oil employees could live in them, used their personal information to enter into contracts and open lines of credit and even began evicting the tenants renting from the Flowers.
Weikart continued that Ehrenberg talked Linda Flowers into quitting her job so she could go look for other properties for him. He took out a $5,000 home equity line of credit in their name, pocketed $1,000 and put $4,000 in another account to make it look like Chesapeake was beginning to pay for some of the bills.
Jeff Flowers appeared in court and talked about the man who cost him and his wife their credit and have left them with bills from multiple contractors which they cannot pay. Work was done to duplexes owned by the Flowers and at the direction of Ehrenberg by contractors Custom Concrete and Construction, Oliver's Construction and Bruderly Excavating. Additionally, Flowers said he and his wife had begun making deals with real estate companies to purchase more duplexes as Ehrenberg requested.
"I believe without incarceration he will just get back into the game," Flowers said. "He wasn't who he reported to be."
Pike pushed Flowers further to tell him about a letter reportedly sent to county Commissioner Mike Halleck. Flowers said he and his wife had put their intention to rent their duplexes to Chesapeake employees in a letter, which was hand-delivered to Halleck at an event held at a local church to answer the residents' questions about the gas and oil industry coming to the area. Flowers pointed out Ehrenberg could have even been there that night and somehow knew about a letter.
"Did the fact that he knew about this letter, did that give him some credibility in your eyes," Pike questioned?
"Yes sir," Flowers responded.
Prior to sentencing, Ehrenberg told Pike he was drinking a lot at the time and his father had recently died. He credited detective Andy Sweeney of the Columbiana County Sheriff's Department with helping him survive what he had done. Ehrenberg said he did not know how it happened, adding he was down on his luck.
"There are 11 counts here," Pike said. "I find it hard to believe people are out thousands of dollars and you don't know how this happened."
Besides the jail time and EOCC counseling, Pike ordered a three-year term of probation and restitution.
"I don't think there's a chance you're going to get one penny out of him," Pike told Flowers. "Unfortunately, the court can't create money for those who have done things to others. This man's just a poor excuse for a human being."