The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest News

October 17, 2013

Probe of slain sheriff included money laundering

CHARLESTON — A federal search warrant filed about a month after a West Virginia sheriff was slain shows that the lawman was being investigated by the FBI on suspicion of money laundering in the weeks before his death.

Media outlets report that Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum was under investigation for allegedly arranging to buy campaign signs with cash obtained from a doctor convicted of running a pill mill.

According to the warrant, Dr. Diane Shafer paid hundreds of thousands in cash to George White for making Crum’s campaign signs. The search warrant, filed May 7 to search Crum’s phone, was unsealed last week.

Crum was shot to death last April 4 as he sat in his police cruiser in downtown Williamson.

The FBI also was investigating whether Crum committed mail fraud by submitting fake campaign disclosure forms by mail, whether Crum possessed illegal drugs and whether he intended to distribute those drugs.

Shafer was sentenced to six months in jail after pleading guilty to misusing her Drug Enforcement Administration registration number. The plea came as a result of a federal probe that examined more than 118,000 prescriptions that Shafer doled out since 2003.

Crum and White recently were mentioned in a federal charge filed against Michael Thornsbury, who stepped down as the county’s circuit judge before pleading guilty to conspiring to deprive White of his constitutional rights earlier this month.

Thornsbury’s charge states that he, along with then-County Commissioner David Baisden and then-Prosecuting Attorney Michael Sparks, devised a scheme to keep White quiet about providing Crum with prescription pills.

Federal prosecutors say Crum had White arrested instead of paying him $3,000 owed for campaign materials. White then went to federal agents and told them about allegedly providing Crum with pills.

Agents then began investigating Crum for mail fraud, because of possible false campaign finance disclosures, conspiracy to commit money laundering in connection with arranging for Shafer to purchase signs for his campaign with cash she received illegally and unlawfully possessing controlled substances or intending to deliver controlled substances, the warrant said.

According to the warrant, a deputy sheriff told Crum that White was talking to FBI agents.

To keep White quiet, county officials allegedly offered White a deal. If he switched to an attorney who was favored by Crum and Thornsbury, he would get a lighter sentence, according to federal prosecutors.

White was sentenced to 1 to 15 years in prison on drug charges this year.

Sparks also has been charged in connection with the alleged scheme. He resigned as prosecutor and agreed to surrender his law license after he was charged.

Baisden pleaded guilty to an unrelated federal charge and recently resigned.

 

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