Federal prosecutors are continuing their efforts to build a case against former Buncombe County Sheriff Bobby Medford. Hot Dog King owner Demetre Theodossis cut a deal on Jan. 30, agreeing to cooperate in exchange for avoiding additional charges. Theodossis has agreed to assist in the ongoing investigation of official corruption in connection with video-poker machines and gambling rings in Western North Carolina, to testify at co-defendants’ trials, and to pay the Internal Revenue Service more than $330,000 in back taxes.
A series of federal prosecutions related to illegal activity under former Sheriff Bobby Medford continues apace, with prosecutors seeking a court order confirming the previously set March 25 trial date.
Evidence related to these cases now fills an entire room in the federal courthouse, said prosecutors, and the cases are so complex that both prosecution and defense attorneys need extra time to review the evidence.
In the wake of Theodossis’ plea bargain, Medford and the three deputies arrested alongside him now stand alone against the prosecution.
The charges against Medford “[grow] out of a series of investigations and prosecutions of various individuals involved in the video poker machine business, many of whom have [pleaded] guilty and will be testifying at the March 25 trial,” the government’s motion states. The document also asserts that the evidence will demonstrate the involvement of other Western North Carolina sheriffs in the corruption.
Fines, taxes could total more than $1 million
Theodossis, who owns a string of businesses involved in the illegal operations, is alleged to have paid bribes to Medford and his deputies, though neither the amounts nor the nature of the former sheriff’s involvement are specified in the plea deal.
Late in 2006, the N.C. Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement raided Theodossis’ home and businesses, seizing more than $1.7 million in cash. Simultaneous FBI raids netted an additional $990,000. All told, the raids targeted 21 businesses owned by Theodossis and his family.
Theodossis has agreed to cooperate in the prosecution of any co-defendants specified by the government, as well as providing information about “criminal activity within the defendant’s knowledge to any government agent or agency that the United States designates,” the agreement states. In return, the “United States agrees not to seek any additional charges related to the defendant’s operation of an illegal gambling business … or related to the defendant’s payments of money to any persons affiliated with the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office related to his operation of such a gambling business.” Any additional charges against Theodossis and his family members are also being dropped.
But Theodossis was required to plead guilty to charges of illegal gambling, fraud and false statements. He also forfeited the proceeds from his operation while agreeing to pay back taxes totaling $331,255 on unreported income from 2001 to 2005. With the potential fines relating to the other charges, however, he could end up owing more than $1 million after sentencing.
During a Jan. 15 hearing on whether to release Medford and his deputies to house arrest before the trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Edwards noted that “The ‘de-Baathification’ of the Sheriff’s Department and local law enforcement, so to speak, is not over yet,” adding that the investigation was ongoing.
On Feb. 11, the U.S. attorney’s office asked Judge Thomas Ellis III for a court order retaining the March 25 trial date, even though the federal Speedy Trial Act would normally dictate an earlier date. The document’s summary hints at the massive volume of evidence gathered against Medford and his deputies in preparation for the trial:
“Those cases … involve the execution of more than 30 search warrants in North Carolina and South Carolina [and] the seizure of more than 65 banker’s boxes of documents … [including] orders authorizing the obtaining of tax returns for more than 10 persons, transcripts of more than 100 grand-jury witnesses, video and audio recordings of bribe payments made to one sheriff, and discussions of payments made to multiple other sheriffs in the Western District of North Carolina.” In addition, the document notes, some of the “bulkier items of evidence (such as video-poker machines and computers)” are stored elsewhere.
At the Jan. 15 hearing, Medford’s attorney, Stephen Lindsay, complained that he hadn’t had time to review the evidence.
But the literal and figurative weight of the evidence isn’t the only reason the government has asked for a delay. Prosecutors are also trying to work around Ellis’ schedule, since the judge must travel from eastern Virginia to hear the case. Ellis, the document notes, was chosen “following the recusal by all the judges of the Western District of North Carolina and the withdrawal by Judge Osteen of the Middle District of North Carolina. Judge Ellis therefore must deal with his regular caseload … involving several extremely complex cases, as well as this case.”
At press time, the attorneys for Medford and his deputies had until Feb. 25 to respond to the government’s requested trial date.
Visit www.mountainx.com/xpressfiles to view documents related to the Medford case, including Theodossis’ plea bargain and the government’s defense of the trial date.