White gets 5 years for role in burglary and fraud ring

Woman apologizes to court for drug, alcohol problem

Posted: Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A judge Monday sent Roberta White to prison for five years for her role in the string of burglaries, thefts and fraud committed to fund the alleged drug operation of Vonnie Williams and Aaron Washington.

White is one of more than seven arrested in the ring. She is one of the few who did not offer to testify against the alleged ringleaders.

"I would like to apologize," White said. "I have a drug and alcohol problem."

Juneau Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg gave White "flat-time" with none of the five-year sentence suspended and offered no parole.

Pallenberg said rhetorically, it's hard to say which came first, the drug problem or the theft problem. He refused to release the already jailed White for a 48-hour visit with her children before the prison clock started.

Before sentencing, White blew kisses to her children in attendance.

Originally, White was charged with burglary, theft and forgery after police found mail and items from about 30 Juneau residences in a room she kept at a family member's house.

Assistant District Attorney Jack Schmidt said White took mortgage checks and bill payments. Her victims suffered credit problems as a result, he said. In one case White stole a condolence card containing a check.

Schmidt said White has had a difficult time with substance abuse. There is no indication she wants rehabilitation, he said.

The single most valuable item accredited to White's thievery was a $15,000 heirloom diamond ring.

White pleaded guilty in April in an agreement with the Juneau District Attorney's Office that dropped the theft and forgery charges. She agreed to pay restitution on all charges, including the dropped charges that include several other cases and a theft from the Hoonah Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall.

Before receiving her sentence Monday, White told Pallenberg that she offered to help get the heirloom ring back to its rightful owner, but the district attorney backed off after she refused to turn on Williams.

Williams and Washington are co-defendants in Juneau's first organized crime trial. Both are accused of leading an enterprise that imported cocaine, including crack and other drugs from Oregon, Washington and New York through the mail and by using women who carried the drugs on Alaska Airlines flights.

White looked across the courtroom to her victim and said, "I know who has the ring."

"I think they wanted her to go undercover," Jeff Sauer, White's attorney, said. "She was afraid of Williams. She declined."

After sentencing, the ring's owners said, "All we wanted was the ring." One said she understood White's fear of Williams.

Sauer said the DA's office never followed up on the offer to return the ring and that "time was of the essence."

White's crimes go beyond the "monetary" into "personal invasion," Pallenberg said. She has a long history of stealing from people and businesses, he said. Future crimes, if committed, would draw increasingly harsh sentences, he said.

• Contact reporter Greg Skinner at 523-2258 or greg.skinner@juneauempire.com.

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