Ed Gebert/TImes Bulletin <br>Nicholas E. Bendele (left) listens as Judge Charles D. Steele tells him about the program at the WORTH Center in Lima during a hearing on Wednesday. Bendele must complete the program before being placed on community control.
Ed Gebert/TImes Bulletin
Nicholas E. Bendele (left) listens as Judge Charles D. Steele tells him about the program at the WORTH Center in Lima during a hearing on Wednesday. Bendele must complete the program before being placed on community control.
BY ED GEBERT

Times Bulletin News Writer

egebert@timesbulletin.com

A man known by prosecutors as "one of the biggest dealers in this area" had his prison sentence modified Wednesday by Van Wert County Common Pleas Court Judge Charles D. Steele.

Nicholas E. Bendele, 27, Ohio City, was granted judicial release from prison where he had been since his sentencing last fall. At that point, Bendele pleaded guilty to three counts of trafficking in heroin as well as possession of heroin and misuse of a credit card. He was sentenced to two years in prison on Sept. 30, 2009.

The modified sentence will send the former Van Wert resident to the WORTH Center in Lima to complete a rehabilitation and treatment program over the next four to six months. If he successfully completes the program, Bendele will be released on community control for three years. If he does not complete the program, he could easily end up back in prison to serve out the two years.

"I'm 27, and I'd like to get my life started over again," Bendele told the court. "I don't want to be an old man in prison."

Bendele admitted to having problems with drug use along with his history of trafficking, but seemed to have no prior record of wanting to seek treatment. Under questioning from Assistant County Prosecutor Kevin Taylor, Bendele spoke about his situation.

"While you've been in prison, have you been able to do anything to help that problem?" Taylor asked.

"That's the thing," Bendele began, "Mostly I was noticing the older people in prison really struggling. I don't want to be old in prison."

"Are you physically addicted at this point in time in your opinion?"

"No, sir."

"Do you believe that you could be on probation and not sell drugs?"

"Yes, sir."

The case against Bendele was made when detectives from Van Wert Police were investigating Bendele's use of his mother's credit card. The detectives found a large amount of heroin in his vehicle during the arrest on March 2, 2009. Later, he sold heroin to an undercover agent on three separate occasions.

Two women were sentenced Wednesday in separate cases involving assault on law enforcement officers. Rachel E. Sroufe, 32, Delphos, was charged after she kicked one of the sheriff's deputies attempting to take her into custody for domestic violence on Dec. 19. Tammy M. Sparks, 32, Convoy, was accused of assaulting a Van Wert Police officer on Sept. 13 while she was at Van Wert County Hospital awaiting treatment and transportation to a Lima Hospital.

Each of the women pleaded guilty to fourth-degree felony assault. Steele placed each on three years of community control, and ordered them to perform 200 hours of community service, complete a psychiatric treatment plan and take all medications given by their doctors. Sroufe must also complete a substance abuse treatment program. Prison terms of six months for each woman were deferred pending the successful completion of community control.

A former Tobacco Patch employee was sentenced to up to six months at the WORTH Center, three years of community control and was ordered to repay $11,464.40 to her former employers.

Alicia R. Nieto, 31, Van Wert, was sentenced for grand theft, a felony of the fourth degree. She was charged with stealing the money over a three-month period last fall.

Nieto must also perform 200 hours of community service, serve 30 days in the Van Wert County Jail, and pay all fees and court costs associated with the case. A 12-month prison term was deferred pending the successful completion of community control.

Charles E. McGuire, 53, Lima, was given 180 days in jail and three years of community control for fifth-degree felony non-support of dependents. McGuire is currently more than $9,000 behind on support payments.

McGuire will also perform 200 hours of community service, pay fees and court costs, and remain current on support payments. A 12-month prison sentence was deferred pending the successful completion of community control.

Daniel S. Gutierrez, 47, Van Wert, was sentenced to one year of community control for misdemeanor domestic violence. Gutierrez told the court that he is getting treatment for an alcoholism problem through the Salvation Army Substance Abuse Treatment Program in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Steele ordered that Gutierrez be held in jail until he can begin the program. Gutierrez was also ordered to perform 200 hours of community service, and pay fees and court costs in his case. A 180-day jail sentence was deferred pending the successful completion of community control.

A 30-year-old Van Wert man will serve 90 days in jail for violating his community control. Jason Waldron admitted to testing positive for cocaine, not reporting to the County Adult Probation Office as instructed, and not attending mandatory drug counseling. Waldron was sentenced eleven months ago for cocaine trafficking. He will remain on three years of community control under the previous conditions after his 90 days are served.

Two persons were arraigned Wednesday morning. Heidi K. Sill, 20, Van Wert, pleaded not guilty plea to two counts of forgery and one count of theft, all felonies of the fifth degree.

Sill was released on bond, and a pretrial hearing was scheduled for March 24.

Gabriel G. Spradlin, 25, Mendon, entered a not guilty plea to one count of fifth-degree felony forgery. He was released on bond, and a pretrial hearing was scheduled for March 24.