Former corrections exec on trial in South Bend

The same county that hired Susan Hancock to work in criminal justice is now prosecuting her on criminal charges.

Hancock is still on unpaid leave from her job as St. Joseph County’s Director of Community Corrections.

This week she and her husband are finally getting their day in court.

Both face trial on charges related to the sale of stolen property.

The charges have much more to do with his former job than hers. The couple is accused of using e-Bay to sell stolen musical instruments.

Michael Hancock used to work at Elkhart based musical instrument maker Conn Selmer. Today jurors heard a taped statement that Michael Hancock gave to police in July of 2007. On the tape, Hancock described a strange corporate culture that lead him to believe that he did nothing wrong.

Today’s testimony indicates that both Hancocks sold musical instruments through a third party who ran an e-Bay store, and that the moonlighting was rather profitable.

The e-Bay store owner said that one item he sold for the Hancocks went for $3,000, and that seven others brought in $1,000 or more.

That’s not the kind of money one might expect from selling ‘trash,’ but in an interview with police taped in July of 2007 and played for the jury today, Michael Hancock said that nearly everything he got from work—was taken from the dumpster.

“I’m embarrassed and humiliated,” Michael Hancock said on the tape, “If I knew any of this was illegal, that’s not my character to be a thief.”

Michael Hancock said Conn Selmer employees commonly picked up treasurers from the trash and that the practice was even condoned by supervisors. “All this stuff was like being thrown away,” Hancock was heard to say on the tape.

A Conn Selmer executive offered a different perspective. He said that instruments were never thrown away or given to employees as payment or perks.

However, the executive also admitted that his office was located a quarter of a mile away from the distribution area where Michael Hancock worked, and that the executive seldom visited there.

It was the Conn Selmer executive who first alerted police that something might be wrong.

He got a call from a woman who bought an instrument on e-Bay and wanted to know more about it.

When the executive looked up the serial number—the records showed that the instrument had never been sold—that it was still supposed to be part of the company’s unshipped inventory.

The executive then took it upon himself to visit e-Bay where he bought another Conn Selmer horn that was listed for sale.

When that product was shipped, the return address on the package listed the name “S. Hancock” with Susan Hancock’s Mishawaka house number.

While Susan and Michael Hancock are co-defendants in the same trial, they have separate attorneys and they sit at different defense tables inside the courtroom.

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