Ultrarunner Charlie Engle was released from federal prison in June.
For 16 months stretching from late 2010 to last June, Charlie Engle, 50, was incarcerated at a federal prison in Beckley, W.V., having been found guilty by a jury on 12 counts of bank, mail and wire fraud in connection with a real estate scam. The judge’s 21-month sentence was less than half of what the prosecutor had sought, a leniency extended thanks to more than 120 letters of support from Engle’s friends and family and the fact that Engle had a clean record and 18 years of sobriety and charitable work.
Leslie Jamison’s article about Engle published this month in the Oxford American, details the author’s visitation with Engle in a West Virginia prison. The essay is an incredibly eloquent exploration of America’s relationship with imprisonment, retribution and remorse.
At sentencing, the federal judge denied Engle’s request for probation only, stating that Engle had to be punished for what he had done and concluding “I believe he knew what he was doing was wrong.” At trial, Engle had contended that he was deceived by mortgage brokers and real estate agents who had forged his signature and inflated his income figures to increase his loan amounts. But the prosecutor introduced evidence, including undercover agents’ tape recordings, that were incriminating enough to convince a jury of Engle’s guilt in inflating his income in order to qualify for loans that, in turn, he used to leverage for mortgages in excess of $1 million. Engle was able to withdraw equity on the leveraged properties, which were eventually foreclosed. In addition to the 21-month jail term, Engle’s sentence included 100 hours of community service, five years of probation and the repayment of $265,500 to lenders.
Engle, a father of two teenage sons, of Greensboro, N.C., is widely known for his run across the Sahara Desert, documented in “Running the Sahara,” narrated by Matt Damon. He’s also recognized for his attempt to run across America, made into “Running America,” an 86-minute documentary, as well as his motivational speaking. He was released from prison last June to a halfway house in Greensboro, N.C, and left the halfway house in August.
For more: Oxford American