Cumberland Times-News

January 4, 2013

Police: Eight in Piedmont indicted on property embezzlement charges

Case involves allegations of fraud with six FEMA trailers

Elaine Blaisdell
Cumberland Times-News

— PIEDMONT, W.Va. — Piedmont Foreman John Shingler along with seven other people are being indicted with federal property embezzlement charges, according to Cpl. J.E. Whisner of the West Virginia State Police.

The case is in U.S. District Court in Martinsburg and involves allegations of fraud with six Federal Emergency Management Agency trailers that were purchased in 2009.

The investigation into the trailers has been ongoing since September 2011.

Ray Hall, commissioner, provided the state police with a recorded tape of an executive session where the FEMA trailers were discussed.

Whisner said he didn’t know the names of the remaining seven people who were indicted.

A call to Chris Zumpetta-Par, public affairs specialist for the office of the U.S. Attorney Northern District of West Virginia, for more information on the case was not returned by press time.

Hall indicated during a March council meeting that the trailers were purchased with a money order from the city of Piedmont.

“They were turned away because any of us can turn up with a money order that says ‘city of Piedmont,’” said Hall during the March meeting.

“They turned the money order back in and flushed it through the city checking account. The trailers were purchased and distributed to the people that put the money up. They were never kept by the city; they were given immediately to the people that paid for them.”

The trailers reappeared when it came time for inspections and then disappeared after the inspections, according to Hall, who added the city did not go through the proper channels to sell the trailers; they were sold to whomever had money.

Also during the March council meeting, the council voted to pay the legal fees for Betsy Rice, town clerk, in regard to the FEMA allegations.

In April, Hall was sentenced  in Mineral County Magistrate Court to a year in jail and was fined $500, the maximum sentence he could have received for the charge of attempted extortion.

Hall’s appeal of the charge was denied in Circuit Court in August.

Neither Mayor Skip Clifford nor any of the current council members were in office at the time the funds were used. Rice said she and Shingler were the only officials remaining.

Former Mayor Ebbie Gilmore and Finance Commissioner Mickey Racco died in office in 2010.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at The Associated Press contributed to this story.