Bassett ringleader released from prison


First Posted: 11/18/2009

A man labeled the ringleader in the largest embezzling case in Surry County history recently was freed from prison after serving only a small portion of a minimum four-year sentence.
The early release of John Ronald Ron Jarrett the former plant manager of Bassett Furniture Industries in Mount Airy was due to medical reasons, a corrections spokesman said Wednesday.
He received a medical parole, explained Keith Acree, public affairs director for the North Carolina prison system. Acree said this action indicates that Jarrett, 66, is probably sick or dying.
Thats typically the people who tend to get them, he added of medical paroles.
Another source indicated Wednesday that Jarrett, who headed the now-defunct Bassett plant on Sheep Farm Road from 1988 to 2005 when an investigation was launched into the embezzlement scheme is suffering from congestive heart failure. Jarrett, one of eight Bassett employees charged with multiple felony embezzlement violations, also is now under house arrest, according to the source.
State law is quite specific regarding when an inmate may receive an early release for health reasons, according to Acree. In order to be a candidate for medical parole, you have to be permanently and totally disabled or terminally ill, he said.
Jarrett was freed on Sept. 10, after serving slightly more than one year of a sentence received on July 16, 2008, in Surry Superior Court upon pleading guilty to seven counts of solicitation to commit embezzlement greater than $100,000.
Judge William Wood Jr. ordered Jarrett to spend at least 50 months (four years and two months), behind bars, but no more than 78 months, or six and a half years.
The former Surry County man was residing in Morehead City when he appeared in court in 2008, and was immediately taken into custody upon being sentenced. State prison records show his present location to be in Carteret County, where Morehead City is located.
Acree said that despite the former inmates medical status, he remains subject to other penal conditions. Hes still under parole, the prison spokesman said, as well as being on probation. When Jarrett was sentenced in 2008, the judge ordered that he be on supervised probation for five years after his release from prison.
This portion of his sentence remains in effect, according to Acree, who said the former Bassett official is subject to visits from a parole officer in addition to other probationary requirements.
When he appeared in court, Jarrett also was ordered to pay $250,000 in restitution for his role in the thefts that cost Bassett Furniture Industries Inc. an estimated $1.9 million. The magnitude of the case prompted local law enforcement and prosecutors to turn it over to the N.C. Attorney Generals Office.
Last week in Superior Court when Lisa Galyean Martin, the last of the eight defendants, was sentenced, a special deputy state attorney general called Jarrett the ringleader in the scheme. That was due to his alleged role in forcing other implicated employees to commit wrongdoing.
For example, Martin, former safety director and shipping supervisor at the plant, feared being fired if she didnt comply with directives from Jarrett to manipulate computer records to conceal the thefts, based on statements in court.
Defendants in the case, who all held management positions, were accused of stealing bedroom furniture, wardrobes and wooden tables. Previous reports indicated that around 80 items of furniture were recovered on the day the embezzlement probe started in April 2005, along with another 300-plus pieces of furniture and accessories in the months afterward.
Authorities recovered items from two homes owned by Jarrett which he used the stolen property to furnish, as well as storage units. Missing furniture also is said to have been distributed as gifts to different groups and people.
Most of the eight employees had been employed by Bassett Furniture Industries Inc. for more than 10 years before being fired shortly after the probe began, based on previous reports.
The case resulted in the conviction of all eight defendants on a total of 117 felony charges and 13 misdemeanor offenses, according to a statement released Wednesday afternoon by the Attorney Generals Office.
All defendants pleaded guilty; six of the eight were sentenced to time behind bars and all received probation. Collectively, the ex-employees also were ordered to pay nearly $350,000 in restitution, fines and fees.
A total of 13 State Bureau of Investigation agents, including lead investigator Special Agent Chris Laws, worked nearly 1,000 hours on the case, based on the statement.
Contact Tom Joyce at [email protected] or at 719-1924.

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