Bagman sentenced in Medford trial, more plea deals revealed

The complex web of cases concerning alleged corruption by former Buncombe County Sheriff Bobby Medford and his deputies deepened, as new information was revealed at the sentencing of former Capt. Tracy Keith Bridges. On Dec. 13, Bridges pleaded guilty to helping the operation launder money.

Meanwhile, court documents revealed that two associates of Medford ally and donor Jackie Shepherd, who is charged with running an illegal video-poker ring, accepted plea deals with the government earlier this month. Kerry Lee Comer and his brother, Irvin Keith Comer, both pleaded guilty to running an illegal gambling business as part of the Weaverville-based Western Amusement Inc., which is owned by Shepherd. The two men agreed to testify as directed by the government in the Shepherd case, in addition to each turning over $165,000 in proceeds from the operation.

Bridges, who accepted a plea deal when Medford and his deputies were first arrested back in December, was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for his role, which included processing money orders for Medford’s re-election campaigns in a way that violated state rules. Many of the $13,500 in donations handled by Bridges from one golf tournament fundraiser, for example, were from video-poker operators. When the amount violated campaign limits, Bridges asserted that he was given a list of donors to write-in, and converted the cash into money orders.

FBI agent Mike McNeely also testified that Bridges had fixed traffic tickets on behalf of illegal video-poker operators, including ones as far afield as South Carolina.

Shepherd, a longtime political supporter of Medford’s, was indicted and arrested at the same time as the former sheriff, along with five men who worked for Shepherd at Western Amusement. The indictment alleges that Shepherd had 41 video-poker machines at 10 different locations in Buncombe and Madison counties as part of his illegal-gambling operation.

On Feb. 8, both Comer brothers accepted plea deals from federal prosecutors. After initially pleading not guilty in January, both now signed a statement admitting that they’d been part of an illegal gambling operation. In return, prosecutors will drop the conspiracy charges against them.

According to the statements, Western Amusement would receive “40 percent to 50 percent of the net profits from the operation of the machine, and the store owners would retain the other 60 to 50 percent.”

Coming on the heels of the recent plea bargain by Hot Dog King owner Demetre Theodossis (aka “Jimmy the Greek”), this leaves Medford and his deputies, along with Shepherd, his son and stepson, still facing federal prosecution. Medford’s trial is slated to begin March 25.

To view documents related to these cases, including the Comers’ plea deals, go to http://mountainx.com/xpressfiles.

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