Former Tidings Editor Andrew Scot Bolsinger was sentenced to three years in prison Wednesday for bilking former business partners out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Bolsinger, 43, admitted committing a string of felony forgery, theft and identity theft crimes during 2006-07 born from what he claimed was a mix of excessive pride and bad business judgments fueled by a desire to succeed and not by greed.
Though the thefts from investors in two print shops, a restaurant and a bar at times were in excess of $50,000 and ultimately led to the businesses collapsing under him, Bolsinger labeled himself a good man who lost perspective but never sought personal gain.
"In my heart, with a clear conscience I know I never stole money," Bolsinger wrote in a letter to the court dated Monday. "I sought, recklessly perhaps, to do well by others.
"All I did, I did to help the businesses succeed, to protect jobs and to be an asset to the community," Bolsinger wrote.
"Of course, I did it also simply to protect my ego, a failing I'll pay the rest of my life for."
As part of a plea agreement accepted Wednesday in Jackson County Circuit Court, Bolsinger pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated first-degree theft and one count each of first-degree forgery and identity theft. In exchange, prosecutors dropped 19 other similar counts against him.
Judge Mark Schiveley ordered that restitution be capped at $432,000 and gave prosecutors 90 days to calculate the exact amount.
Bolsinger agreed to pay restitution to all the victims who appear in the 23-count indictment against him. In his letter to the court, Bolsinger pledged to pay back the victims, who include longtime friends as well as banks and loan institutions.
"I trust the state and these victims will hold you to that," Schiveley told Bolsinger in court.
Court documents and a Mail Tribune investigation into Bolsinger's financial dealings indicate that he struck business deals in which he ultimately incurred hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of debt.
In doing so, he forged loan documents with the names of investors and stole money from the businesses and/or investors, court documents state.
Bolsinger bought The Main Source, a copying business, Lithia Stationers, the Jefferson State Pub and Pipon's, a Mexican restaurant. The pub reverted back to its original owners and the other businesses closed.
One of those victims was Elaine Leffler of California, who wrote a letter to Schiveley that was read Wednesday in court by prosecutor Rachel Bridges.
In the letter, Leffler said she was a grade-school friend of Lori Bolsinger, Scot Bolsinger's wife and a co-defendant in this case. Leffler wrote that she knew Lori and Scot when the pair dated in high school and that she invested in their businesses based on "trust and a lifelong friendship."
Court records indicate the Bolsingers forged Leffler's name on loan documents. Leffler wrote that the Bolsingers' actions resulted in "a legal, financial and personal nightmare" for her, resulting in losses of about $103,000 and the incurring of another $80,000 in costs to clear her financial identity.
Schiveley told Bolsinger that Leffler was "one of a number of people damaged by your actions here.
"The ripple effect from something of this nature is far-reaching," Schiveley said.
Lori Bolsinger, 43, has pleaded not guilty to single counts of first-degree theft and first-degree forgery and is due back in court on Monday. She did not attend Wednesday's hearing.
Wearing green Jackson County Jail clothes, Bolsinger stood quietly during Wednesday's 15-minute hearing and offered only short answers to Schiveley's questions.
Bolsinger's letter was not read in court, but was available as a public record. Bolsinger has been in state prison since July on an unrelated felony sex-abuse conviction involving a former student at a Salem academy in 2000 while he taught there.
In his letter, Bolsinger wrote that he went to prison "a proud but beaten man" and after prison soul-searching he was determined to re-enter society a "more humble, and better man."
He wrote that he does not blame people in Ashland for being angry at him because failing businesses and job losses are "painful."
He also wrote that he intentionally did not "argue my case in the court of public opinion" by not discussing the case with the media, and he asked Schiveley to take that into account in sentencing Wednesday.
"As I said before, I made a great many mistakes, but I know with a clear conscience I did not do these for personal gain or greed," Bolsinger wrote.
Under the plea agreement, Bolsinger gets five months' credit for time served since the indictment.
His new prison time in the theft and forgery case will not begin until he is released from his prison term for the sex-abuse case.
State prison records show his earliest release date on the sex-abuse sentence could be Oct. 23.
Bolsinger was fired in February 2008 from the Daily Tidings, which is a sister paper of the Mail Tribune.
Mark Freeman is a reporter at the Mail Tribune in Medford. Reach him at 776-4470, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.