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COURT

Auburn man missing for two years after guilty plea found, sent to prison

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AUBURN — In 2015, William Oliver pleaded guilty to third-degree welfare fraud for receiving more than $5,500 in benefits he wasn't entitled to. At the time, he agreed to pay restitution in exchange for no worse than one year in jail; however, when it came time for sentencing, the defendant never showed. 

Now, two years later, Oliver finally learned his fate. 

The 33-year-old sat before Judge Thomas Leone Thursday morning, dressed in an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs. He had been in Cayuga County Jail since Sept. 1, when authorities found the felon in Binghamton. 

Cayuga County District Attorney Jon Budelmann asked Leone to sentence Oliver to the maximum — 3 1/2 to seven years in prison — for the class D felony. He listed Oliver's long history of crime, including 13 misdemeanor convictions and one felony. 

"This defendant has a long pattern of theft-related convictions," Budelmann said. "If he had paid restitution in 2015, his charge would have been reduced to a misdemeanor. But (Oliver) never paid a cent, and he never came back." 

A second felony offender, Oliver was previously convicted of third-degree attempted burglary in 2004. He also had a felony charged reduced to a misdemeanor in 2012 when he admitted to stealing more than $15,000. 

In court Thursday, Budelmann said Oliver still owed roughly $5,000 from the case in 2012. He also owed $5,780 for his fraud conviction from 2015. 

Despite his previous pleas of guilty, Oliver claimed he was innocent Thursday and asked to have his defense attorney, Norman Chirco, removed from his case. He also asked Leone to postpone his sentencing to he could find new counsel and take care of personal matters. 

But the judge denied his request. 

"You had plenty of time to talk to Mr. Chirco," Leone said. "You have two years to take care of this." 

Leone sentenced Oliver to 3 1/2 to seven years in prison. He also ordered Oliver to pay approximately $6,000 in restitution and reduced his 2012 restitution to a judgment. 

Also in court: 

• A Moravia man was sentenced to a term of shock probation Thursday for stealing nearly $17,000. 

Eric Hale, 23, of 34 1/2 W. Cayuga St., pleaded guilty to fourth-degree grand larceny, a class D felony, and petit larceny, a class A misdemeanor, in August.

During his plea, Hale admitted he had been breaking into cars in a parking lot when he came across a "large sum of money" in one of the vehicles. He then said he distributed much of that money to some family members. 

Hale and his relatives were ultimately caught and returned roughly $7,000. Hale then took responsibility for the crime in exchange for probation. 

On Thursday, Leone sentenced Hale to five years probation with time served. Hale was also ordered to pay the $10,000 he still owed in restitution. 

"(Hale) knows this was stupid and there is a lot to make up for here," Hale's defense attorney Timothy Brennan said. "He's sorry for what he did." 

Staff writer Megan Blarr can be reached at (315) 282-2282 or megan.blarr@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter @CitizenBlarr. 

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