Bobby Medford indicted on federal extortion charges

Former Buncombe County Sheriff Bobby Medford was arrested Thursday morning along with three of his officers and charged, under a federal indictment, with extorting money from illegal video poker operations.

Medford, along with reserve Capt. Guy Penland, former Lt. Ronnie Eugene “Butch” Davis and former Lt. John Harrison is charged with conspiracy to commit extortion, conspiracy to commit money laundering, five counts of mail fraud and obstruction of state and local law enforcement charges, including making false statements. If convicted, the men could face severe penalties, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The extortion, mail fraud and money-laundering charges each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines. The obstruction of justice charges carry a maximum of five years prison and a $250,000 fine.

The indictment, unsealed today, alleges that Medford and the other officers abused their official powers from October 2000 to December 2006 and “provided business owners and/or video poker operators with benefits and services ranging from non-enforcement of video poker laws, to the falsification of community service records on behalf of a video poker operator’s agent charged with criminal offenses.” The indictment also alleges that Medford and the officers gave video-poker operators access to grand-jury surveillance, provided transportation and placement of the machines, gave some of the operators deputy’s badges, ran a check on an FBI agent’s license-plate number, and that Davis called to warn operators about impending search warrants.

The mail fraud charges stem from Medford and the officers allegedly providing registration stickers for the illegal machines.

The conspiracy, according to the indictment, made money for Medford through golf tournaments, direct demands for cash and receiving money in exchange for convincing store owners to put the machines in their businesses. The indictment also alleges the extortion, among other things, helped support Medford’s gambling at Harrah’s Casino, with net losses of $54,142 in 2006 alone, on trips often accompanied by deputies in county vehicles, on work time.

The indictments follow on the heels of an ongoing investigation into Medford’s video poker ties.  When Medford, Sheriff since 1994, left office after losing the 2006 election to current Sheriff Van Duncan, a county audit of his evidence rooms found missing drugs, guns and money. A 2005 Xpress story reported on unrecorded video poker machines, poor record-keeping on those machines by the Sheriff, as well as alleged cash payouts, and the likelihood of uncollected taxes in the video poker industry in Buncombe County.

(A summary of past controversies during Medford’s tenure can be found here.)

Davis’ apartment was raided in February, with agents seizing $18,000 in federal proceeds. The U.S. Attorney’s Office this summer indicted 21 people involved with Henderson Amusement Co., based in Inman, S.C. The investigations found that the Henderson operation had two deputies tied to Medford on its payroll and was bribing two sheriffs for protection. The company’s owners, James and Barron Henderson, had their charges lessened after a plea deal was reached. Charges against the two deputies were later dropped.

The investigation has involved multiples agencies, including the FBI, the State Bureau of Investigation and the IRS, with help from the Buncombe, Cleveland and Rutherford county Sheriff’s offices and the Police Department of Shelby, the indictment notes.

Ironically enough, Medford signed a letter in 2002 as part of the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association in support of the bill banning cash payouts from video poker machines.

In a separate but related indictment, Weaverville businessman Jack Shepherd was also charged with operating illegal video poker machines.

—David Forbes, staff writer





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14 thoughts on “Bobby Medford indicted on federal extortion charges

  1. lokel

    Why has it taken so long for Xpress to report this story?

    I thought you guys were an independent weekly that did investigative work.

    The new Asheville City Paper would have hit the streets yesterday with this story on the front page, had the alleged “press problems” resulted in a delay.

    Now that you all have fired Cecil I guess the investigative reporting has gone out the window in favor of such tripe as The Carolina Stompers?

  2. Dionysis

    Excellent news. No big surprise to those who have been watching this unfold. May he get the book thrown at him, and spend the rest of his days in lockup. Shepard too.

    Now it’s time for the Republicon apologists and lackeys to come out and claim it’s all some kind of moonbat liberal socialist conspiratorial set-up.

  3. The City Paper wasn’t on the streets because Cecil’s mob of merry wanderers forgot to stop standing outside of the Xpress offices with torches lit for 10 minutes and go and get the papers to be distributed.

    Seriously, is this what every news comments going to be like now? Just people Raging about Cecil and DoDos?

  4. dankster

    HAHAHAHA – BOBBY MEDFORD INDICTED – too funny, only proves my point all cops are crooked,they are no better than you or I to enforce laws.Capitalism is organized crime!

  5. these “people” need our collective help more now than ever. Demons possess there poor soul. Let all have a collective harmonic embrace for these pitiful slabs of bacon. Pray with me brothers and sisters. The stars are in such a way that falling love is easier now than ever. Lets fall in love with the demonic pot marked rose colored yellow teeth man. He did so much.

  6. Rob Close

    Maybe this will make Mumpower think twice about the POSSIBILITY of corruption in local law enforcement or government. As it stands, he has told us citizens that such a thing is too incredulous, and with all the internal enforcement, he found it hard to conceive that officials could ever get away with anything.

    So where’s all the guns, money, and drugs? We STILL haven’t figured that out.

  7. Dionysis

    “So where’s all the guns, money, and drugs? We STILL haven’t figured that out.”

    The answer to this question may never be known, but a good bet is that the money was spent by these crooks with badges, the drugs were sold and the guns are back in circulation. And Medford and the other crooks with badges probably got a cut from that as well.

  8. “Capitalism is organized crime!”

    Oh my. A little learning is a dangerous thing.

    “Statism – in all its forms – is the system of appalling destitution. The facts show that capitalism is the system of freedom – and that it creates wealth. The facts similarly show that statism is the system of repression – and that it causes poverty. Capitalism is the system of freedom and prosperity. Its antithesis – statism in any form – is the system of oppression and destitution. Despite these facts, however, widespread antagonism toward capitalism exists; and generally from among society’s most educated members – Humanities professors, writers, artists, journalists, teachers, clergymen and politicians.”

  9. Nam Vet

    I’m glad they have him in custody, now that the evidence supports his arrest. It is beyond shameful that a Sheriff would engage in this kind of illegal activity. He deserves the maximum.

    As far as the republicans making excuses, I haven’t heard any yet. Don’t think we will hear any either. They probably want it to go away, just like the state democrats want all their scandals quickly forgotten. And there are MANY of them, so don’t even try to make this a partisan thing. What contributes to this kind of corruption is politicians thinking they practically own an office. Medford had been in there a long time. The democrats have been powerful in the NC State Congress too long, and they are comfortable too. That is why THEY are so corrupt. Jim Black the worst example of late. The solution? I give them 2 terms, and unless they are exceptional in office, I will vote in some fresh blood. Career politican is a mistake.

  10. travelah

    This Conservative offers no excuses for the man. If the charges are sustained with convictions, I have no problem with seeing him sent to State Prison or a Federal Prison. I fail to see how this is a Republican scandal in any way. There was nothing in this alleged criminal conduct that is in any way tied to Republican policies or politics. Corruption is simply bad seed whether Democrat, Republican or Independent.

  11. ashevillian

    A Federal Judge today ruled that ol’ Bobby will REMAIN in jail until trial!

    Which will be at least 3-6 months.

    If he is “hooked” on painkillers, as some have suggested, it will be one hellavu detox!

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