By Eric Francis
BRATTLEBORO — Federal probation officers are now set to begin a pre-sentencing investigation into the background of a South Woodstock businessman who admitted to two of the 14 federal fraud charges that had originally been filed against him during an appearance Tuesday before Judge Garvan Murtha in Brattleboro’s federal courtroom.
Paul S. Hendler, founder of Woodstock’s short-lived JavaPop coffeeflavored soda company, had ironed out the terms of this week’s plea agreement back in March.
While the pre-sentencing investigation will study Hendler’s personal and criminal history and come up with a series of “mitigating and aggravating factors” in order to help the judge calculate the exact amount of jail time Hendler will spend in a federal minimum security prison, the overall terms of the deal call for an outcome somewhere in the “lower half” of the federal sentencing guidelines for similar cases of embezzlement.
Hendler had been facing a maximum potential penalty of up to 30 years and fines that could have ranged up to twice the total of the illicit gains, which the government had pegged at over $300,000 during the course of their investigations.
Although the majority of the specific criminal charges against Hendler ended up being dropped, under the terms of the deal formalized on Tuesday Hendler will still be responsible for full monetary restitution to all of the companies and victims who came forward during the investigation and lodged complaints against him.
The plea agreement also includes a provision that Hendler eventually give to the government his entire personal portion of the proceeds whenever his South Woodstock home is eventually sold.
Beginning in August 2011, a federal grand jury accused Hendler of siphoning money meant for JavaPop for his own purposes (including the purchase of his house), embezzling funds from a checking account belonging to the Blueberry Hill Inn in Goshen, overcharging Green Mountain Digital for expenses, and defrauding three individual investors ranging from a doctor who gave Hendler a $140,000 short-term loan to prop up JavaPop to Jayni Chase, wife of comedian Chevy Chase, who gave Hendler $25,000 that he was supposed to have used to help her start up an company that would market environmentally-friendly products for school fundraisers.