Thursday, June 24, 2004

Victims upset at Bush's praise of ex-con

They say embezzler hasn't paid them restitution

By Gregory Korte
Enquirer staff writer

Touting his program to rehabilitate ex-offenders in Cincinnati on Monday, President Bush put his arm on Tami Jordan's shoulder and called the convicted embezzler a "good soul" and an "inspirational person."

But the victims of Jordan's crime - a small, family-owned business in Fairfield that lost $308,170 to Jordan's deception - say she isn't rehabilitated and hasn't paid the court-ordered restitution.

Susan Morin with her two daughters, Cindy (left) and Carolyn, run a small family business in Fairfield.
(Tony Jones photo)
"Of all the people in Cincinnati they could pick out as an example, and they picked her," said Susan Morin, the owner of Gorman Supply Inc. "She's on the front page of every paper, sitting with the most powerful man in the country, and I'm sitting here trying to figure out how to pay my bills next week. Is that fair? Where's my federal program?"

In the town hall-style meeting at a Corryville halfway house, Bush highlighted Jordan as an example of how faith-based programs can help rehabilitate ex-offenders.

The president called on Congress to commit $112 million over two years for drug treatment, student loans and housing for ex-offenders. Rep. Rob Portman, R-Terrace Park, introduced that bill, the Second Chance Act of 2004, Wednesday.

Republicans and Democrats at all levels of government - from Cincinnati Vice Mayor Alicia Reece to the Republican president - are putting an increased emphasis on rehabilitation.

All agree that the government should do more to help convicted felons become productive citizens after they've paid their debt to society.

As the Jordan case shows, people will disagree about how large that debt is. Jordan spent 21/2 years in the Ohio Reformatory for Women and six months at the Talbert House before being freed in August.

While Jordan worked at Talbert house, a small part of her wages were garnished. But now that she's off parole, she hasn't paid a cent of the remaining $310,000 in restitution, the Morins said.

"If she stole $310,000 from someone and still hasn't paid it back, that would make me very unhappy," said Robin Piper, prosecutor in Butler County, where Jordan was convicted. "Quite honestly, I liked the old parole system, where if they didn't make payments, they run the risk of going back to prison. Now when they do their time, they're out."

Jordan first arrived as a temporary worker at Gorman Supply, a 35-year-old distributor of promotional items for the soft drink industry and others.

"She was a member of our family," said daughter Cindy Morin, the third generation in the Gorman company. "We loved her. We trusted her. I was in disbelief that this woman would do this to us. She watched my mom struggle and cry and not understand why she couldn't make ends meet, and not once did she come clean."

From June 1997 to December 1999, Jordan forged Susan Morin's signature on 55 checks totaling $308,170, making them out to her husband, who was also convicted, and other family members. Because she also kept the books, she covered up the checks with phony entries to suppliers, and then stalled them when they called to collect. Even an accountant Gorman hired to figure out why the company was struggling had trouble detecting the theft, the Morins said.

Jordan bought cars - a Chrysler 300M and a Ford Expedition (the Eddie Bauer Edition) - jewelry and family vacations to Disney World, according to court records.

"This woman has not reformed. There's no way three years in prison has done anything for her. She's still working the system again. I know it," Susan Morin said. Except for a prison letter from Tami Jordan's husband, Bruce W. Jordan, pleading for early release, Morin said she hasn't received so much as an apology from either one.

Jordan, who now lives in College Hill and works for a job placement agency helping other ex-offenders get jobs, did not return phone calls to her home and cell phone Wednesday.

"I'm one of the success stories from the Talbert House," Jordan said Monday while seated to the president's left. "A few years ago, I made a poor decision. It pretty much turned my life upside down .... I lost my home, my job, as well as my family had to be separated because of this."

White House spokesman Jim Morrell said Wednesday that the White House worked with the Talbert House to select "individuals who would be willing to share their stories" of how the Talbert House helped get their lives back on track. He was unaware that she had not paid restitution.

"As the president said on Monday, many a good soul makes a mistake in their life. It's not only compassionate, but it makes sense to help these individuals coming out of prison realize a better tomorrow," he said.

Piper, the Republican county prosecutor, said he wholeheartedly agrees with the president's ex-offender initiative.

"Whatever attempts we can make at rehabilitating and re-educating those who have made an error in their judgment, we need to do that. Because if we don't, we pay tenfold in investigating, arresting, trying and incarcerating people over and over again. I hate to use cliches, but it becomes a revolving door," he said.

"At the same time, you do have to hold criminal people accountable."



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