Jail ordered for former store owner, court clerk

A former grocery store owner and clerk of courts who pleaded guilty to charges of passing bad checks has been sentenced to serve 10 days in jail after allegedly failing to keep up with the more than $25,000 in restitution he was ordered to pay.

Ed Preston, owner of Preston’s IGA in Mechanicsburg and the former Champaign County clerk of courts, had pleaded guilty in January to a charge of passing bad checks, a first degree misdemeanor.

In a separate but related case, Preston also pleaded guilty to charges of passing bad checks and grand theft, both fourth degree felonies, in which Preston was acting as the statutory agent for the business.

The store — the only full-service grocery in Mechanicsburg — has since closed.

Preston had paid $3,000 in restitution when he took the plea in January, but Champaign County Prosecutor Kevin Talebi said since then no effort has been made to pay any restitution.

“There still has not been full responsibility or accountability taken for the checks,” Talebi said.

So Preston was sentenced Wednesday to six months in jail, although Judge David Faulkner said all but 10 days of the sentence will be suspended and he will be granted work release. Preston was also ordered to pay a $250 fine, serve 100 hours of community service and five years probation.

The case was difficult because there must be a penalty associated with the crime, Faulkner said. At the same time, the sentence couldn’t be so harsh that it would prevent Preston from working so he could pay restitution. Preston will likely serve his jail sentence next month.

If Preston fails to pay restitution or violates the terms of his probation, Faulkner said he could be ordered to serve the full six months of his sentence.

Preston’s attorney, Ron Tompkins, said the case was a better fit for a civil suit as opposed to a criminal case. He said too many employees at Preston’s grocery store were authorized to write checks, and said Preston and his business faced one setback after another.

He also noted this is the first time Preston has been involved in any criminal activity.

“Basically Mr. Preston is a cautionary tale of when things go bad, they go south very quickly,” Tompkins said.