In the ongoing trial of former Buncombe County Sheriff Bobby Medford Tuesday afternoon, Hot Dog King owner Demetre “Jimmy the Greek” Theodossis said that he paid Medford’s deputies $1,000 a month to protect his illegal video-poker operation.
“They would come around and tell me it was time to make a donation,” Theodossis told the court. “They said it was to help the sheriff — the money was for the sheriff.”
Theodossis said he operated 15 to 20 video-poker machines, mostly in Buncombe. Some of the machines were at his four Hot Dog King locations, while others were at other stores. He testified that all the machines made illegal cash payouts — up to $5,000 — and that he split the proceeds, with 50 to 70 percent going to the store owner. Occasionally, when a store owner didn’t have the cash on hand for a large payout, he’d bring the cash in himself.
When government agents raided Theodossis’ house last year, they found $1.7 million in cash, some of it stashed in the “magazines” that hold money received in video-poker machines, with other amounts in such out-of-the-way places as watertight bags in a PVC pipe stashed beside his well.
Theodossis, who’s taken a government plea bargain, says he paid the money to former Lt. Johnny Harrison and later Lt. Ronnie “Butch” Davis, who ran the video-poker registration program at the Sheriff’s Office. Both Harrison and Davis have taken plea deals, and Harrison testified last week. Theodosiss said he’d also make campaign contributions, such as $5,000 given to Harrison at one point, in cash, with no receipt.
Under questioning from defense attorneys, Theodossis did note that he’d never dealt directly with Medford, except for one time when Medford called to thank him for a $500 contribution (given to Davis, in cash, with no receipt), that he’d made for Sen. Elizabeth Dole’s campaign. But defense attorney Stephen Lindsay also asked how Theodossis could be sure he was speaking to Medford, as he didn’t know him. Theodossis replied that he only knew the man had identified himself as Medford.
He also sponsored several teams in Medford’s biannual golf tournaments. His son, Dennis, said that when his father was vacationing in Greece, he’d received a call from Davis, asking him for money. He testified that he provided it after getting his father’s approval. He also said he accompanied his father to one of Medford’s golf tournaments.
When asked if he noticed anything unusual at the tournament, Dennis replied. “Yeah, all the [sponsor] signs up front seemed to be for some sort of amusement company.”
Later, Frank Orr, one of the organizers of the golf tournaments, a longtime acquaintance of Medford and close friend to Davis and Harrison, identified 16 companies related to video poker or gambling on a list of 32 for one of the golf tournaments. He said that a tournament could make around $11,500 in profit on a good year.
“The golf tournaments were for the sheriff — it was his money, to do with what he wanted to,” Orr said. “Except on election years, then all the money had to go to [campaign] headquarters.”
While he said he never saw Medford directly take bribes, he did see Jerry Pennington, a salesman for Henderson Amusements, frequently drop by the Sheriff’s Office for closed-door meetings with Medford. Pennington, who testified yesterday, has said that he routinely gave Medford bribes in such meetings.
He also confirmed Pennington’s story that he gave deputies at the sheriff’s office a Christmas “bonus.”
“It was five $100 bills in an envelope that said ‘Merry Christmas,’” Orr testified.
The trial resumed at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
— David Forbes, staff writer