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Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Governor commutes sentence of local scammer

St. Marys businessman swindled over $300,000 from area investors

By Shelley Grieshop
ST. MARYS - A former St. Marys businessman who swindled more than $300,000 from area investors - including two southern Mercer County men - was granted an early prison release by outgoing Gov. Ted Strickland.
Brian K. Selby, 43, the former owner of Affordable Motor Sales in downtown St. Marys, was sentenced to a total of 14 years and 11 months during a court hearing in Auglaize County in August 2008. Strickland ordered a full commutation Friday afternoon, meaning the sentence is over right now, according to Auglaize County Prosecutor Ed Pierce.
Pierce called the action "disappointing."
"While I respect the provisions of the Ohio Constitution granting the governor the power to pardon and commute sentences, I am frustrated by the manner in which he conducted this commutation," Pierce said.
The prosecutor's office and the victims of Selby's crimes had no input into the governor's decision, Pierce said. Even the Ohio Adult Parole Authority commented "unfavorably" to Strickland's request for commutation, he added. Pierce this morning said he did not know if Selby had been released yet.
Often before leaving office, governors use their power to pardon or commute prisoners' sentences. A pardon completely wipes out a court conviction; a commutation removes the punishment for the crime by lowering the penalty.
Last week, Strickland pardoned or commuted 158 of more than 700 requests from Ohio inmates.
Between 2003 and the fall of 2007, Selby persuaded 18 victims to invest in Lil' Bugs (small, gas-powered vehicles) that he never purchased. He also sold extended vehicle warranties he never secured, failed to pay employee withholding taxes to the state and lied by telling the Bureau of Worker's Compensation he had no employees to avoid paying into the fund, according to Pierce.
In July 2008, Selby pleaded guilty to five counts of theft, two counts of failure to remit taxes and theft and worker's compensation fraud. Besides the prison sentence, he was ordered to pay $326,902 in restitution to the victims.
Two Mercer County men suffered the greatest monetary loss after investing their life savings with Selby, Pierce said for an earlier story. One, then 35, lost $117,000 and the other, 85 at the time, gave Selby $110,000 during a four-month period.
Pierce said the victims have not gotten justice.
"The most disappointing aspect of this entire matter is the disregard for the rights of the victims," Pierce said. "These crimes involved the planned and continuing scheme to bilk hundreds of thousands of dollars from unsuspecting victims."
Pierce said "justice was robbed" from the victims, and he fears Selby will continue in his ways.
"And now there is cause for concern for future victimization because of this failure of our system," he said. "In this instance, the power to commute was inappropriately applied."
Prior to his 2008 sentence, Selby was incarcerated in a federal prison for fraudulently obtaining a business loan from the federal government.
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