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Henry County Sheriff's Office under investigation; 20 indicted
Cassell, Keaton ordered released on $25,000 bond
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Virginia State Police officers guard the Henry County Sheriff's Office Thursday.
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Thursday, November 2, 2006

By GINNY WRAY - Bulletin Staff Writer

Henry County Sheriff H. Frank Cassell was ordered released on $25,000 bond Thursday afternoon following his arrest earlier in the day in connection with an alleged racketeering conspiracy.

Under terms of the bond, Cassell will be allowed to return to work but he cannot discuss the case with his co-defendants or county or sheriff's office employees, Judge Magistrate Michael F. Urbanski ruled.

Cassell, Maj. James Keaton and 18 others were indicted Tuesday by a federal grand jury in connection with the alleged conspiracy, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Roanoke said Thursday.

Keaton also was released on $25,000 bond.

According to a release from the U.S. Attorney's Office, the alleged conspiracy included distribution of illegal drugs, theft of drugs and firearms under the custody of the Henry County Sheriff's Office; money laundering; and obstruction of justice.

Thirteen of the defendants are current or former employees of the county sheriff's office.

The 48-count indictment was issued by a grand jury in Abingdon on Tuesday. A grand jury indictment is not an indication of guilt. It is the grand jury's determination that enough evidence exists to hold a trial.

The alleged illegal activities included drug distribution, money laundering and stealing property that was in the custody of the Henry County Sheriff's Office, U.S. Attorney John Brownlee stated in the release.

When some of the defendants were confronted by investigators, they allegedly lied, he added.

According to the indictment, since 1998 some sworn officers, employees and associates of the sheriff's office allegedly engaged in a continuous scheme to steal narcotics, firearms and other contraband from the seized evidence property room. Cocaine, crack cocaine, marijuana and firearms allegedly were taken, and the drugs and guns allegedly were resold back into the community, the release states.

The grand jury also has alleged that several defendants stole seized firearms and other contraband for their personal use.

"Those who betray the public trust insult the integrity and honor of all police officers who risk their lives upholding the law," said Shawn A. Johnson, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's Washington Division. "DEA joins with the Virginia State Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to send a clear message that their disgraceful acts will never be tolerated."�

"Police officers who believe they are above the law are acting lawlessly, and this can never be tolerated," said FBI Special Agent in Charge Charles Cunningham.

The grand jury has charged that on March 4, 2005, agents from the DEA's Philadelphia office notified DEA agents in Roanoke that an express mail package containing two kilograms of ketamine was being delivered to a residence in Martinsville, according to the release. Ketamine is a sedative/date rape drug.

DEA agents made a controlled delivery of the ketamine to the Martinsville home and arrested William Randall Reed and charged him with illegal possession with intent to distribute ketamine, the release states.

Reed cooperated and told investigators that the home to which the drugs were delivered was a rental property owned by James Alden Vaught, a sergeant with the sheriff's office, the indictment states. Reed said he paid Vaught in cash and ketamine to use the residence as a drug drop, according to the indictment.

Reed also said he helped Vaught sell two kilograms of cocaine that Vaught allegedly seized from a drug dealer while on duty with the sheriff's office, the release states.

Reed alleged that Bradley Scott Martin, a deputy with the sheriff's office, had been jointly using and selling ketamine and steroids for about eight years, the release states.

Vaught resigned from the sheriff's office in March 2005 and agreed to cooperate with federal investigators the following July, the indictment states. Vaught confirmed the allegations made by Reed and also revealed that the rental property in Martinsville was used by several officers for extramarital sexual relations, the indictment and release state.

Vaught further said that he, Martin and David Allen King, a vice officer and school resource officer with the Henry County Sheriff's Office, engaged in several illegal transactions involving the distribution of cocaine, crack, marijuana and steroids, the release and indictment state.

The grand jury alleges that King, who once supervised the sheriff's office vice unit, took drugs seized by the office and falsified destruction orders for them, the release and indictment state. The stolen drugs then were sold to Wilbert Herman Brown, Ronald Dean Trantham, Reed and others, the release and indictment state.

It is estimated that multiple kilograms of cocaine, ounces of crack and hundreds of pounds of marijuana were taken and resold for further illegal distribution in this manner, the release states.

The canine handler for the sheriff's office, Walter R. Hairston, periodically received drugs to train drug-smelling dogs, the release states. On about 10 occasions, he allegedly took the seized cocaine and marijuana and gave it to Vaught, who then gave it to others for further illegal distribution, the release and indictment state.

According to the indictment, Cornelia Bryant Cox, Keaton, King and Patrick David Martin allegedly stole firearms, money, electronic equipment, illegal drugs or other items from the evidence seized by the sheriff's office.

It also charged that Robert Keith Adams, Wilbert Herman Brown, Cassell, Cox, Kandy D. Hubbard Deshazo, Hairston, Keaton, King, Steven Varion Preston and Trantham attempted to influence, impede and obstruct the federal investigation in the case by making false statements to federal agents, encouraging others to make false statements, committing perjury before a federal grand jury, by passing on law enforcement information so codefendants could avoid apprehension and by violating their oaths as law enforcement officers by ignoring illegal activities, the release and indictment state.

In 2001, a DEA agent from Texas called the sheriff's office to advise it that a drug ledger had been seized that indicated shipments of drugs were being delivered to a "Brad Martin's" house in Martinsville, the release and indictment state. DEA agents in Texas did not realize that Brad Martin was a Henry County Sheriff's deputy. Brad Martin took the call and shared the information with King and Vaught, the release and indictment state. Cassell was advised of this activity and allegedly took no action, the release states.

The grand jury alleges that Cassell was advised of various illegal activities involving his deputies, including the distribution of two kilograms of cocaine, allegedly by Vaught and others; the embezzlement of money allegedly by Vaught; and the alleged use of steroids by some of his personnel.

Cassell allegedly covered these activities up, the indictment claims, by not pursuing investigations and by agreeing to pass on any law enforcement information to the offending parties so they could avoid apprehension, by making false statements to federal investigators and by attempting to aid Vaught in a money laundering scheme to disguise the source of money represented to have been derived from the distribution of cocaine, according to the release.

Specifically, the grand jury alleged that on Feb. 24, 2006, Cassell attempted to help Vaught give $10,000 of known drug proceeds the appearance of legitimacy by cosigning for a loan for Vaught, the release states. Cassell then counseled Vaught to deposit small amounts of cash into a checking account to pay off the loan, the indictment charges.

In addition, the grand jury alleged that Cassell agreed with Vaught to never mention the existence of the money derived from illegal drug distribution and then lied to investigators, saying he knew nothing about Vaught's alleged illegal drug activities, the release states.

The case was investigated by the Virginia State Police, the DEA, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Criminal Chief Thomas J. Bondurant and Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Bassford will prosecute the case, the release says.

The indictment issued by the United State District Court Western Division in Roanoke names the following people:

Robert Keith Adams - sergeant with the Henry County Sheriff's Office

Wilbert Herman Brown - private citizen

Jason Allen Burton - deputy with the Henry County Sheriff's Office

Harold Franklin Cassell - sheriff of the Henry County Sheriff's Office

Cornelia Bryant Cox - deputy with the Henry County Sheriff's Office

Kandy D. Hubbard DeShazo - employee of the United States Postal Office

Walter R. Hairston - deputy with the Henry County Sheriff's Office

James Harold Keaton - captain and the current major with the Henry County Sheriff's Office

David Allan King - vice officer and a school resource officer with the Henry County Sheriff's Office

Ginger Renee Lewis - private citizen

Bradley Scott Martin - deputy with the Henry County Sheriff's Office

Patrick David Martin - sergeant and vice officer with the Henry County Sheriff's Office

Steven Varion Preston - deputy with the Henry County Sheriff's Office

William Randall Reed - private citizen

Carlton Arnez Riley - state probation officer in Henry County

Mark Anthony Roberson - private citizen

Jonathan K. Roberson - deputy with the Henry County Sheriff's Office

Ronald Dean Trantham - private citizen

James Alden Vaught - sergeant with the Henry County Sheriff's Office

Travis Todd Wilkins - vice officer with the Henry County Sheriff's Office

Thursday morning in Henry County, a mass of people gathered at the Henry County Sherrif's Office on Kings Mountain Road where several Virginia State Police and FBI officials were present.

Virginia State Police vehicles blocked the entrances so that people could not cross in front of the sheriff's office. In front, there was a white Virginia State Police command vehicle, an armored blue and gray Virginia State Police tactical truck with a mounted camera and a yellow rental Penske truck and a Virginia State Police mobile command code, along with various unmarked cars.

FBI agents have emerged from the sheriff's office to talk and then leave for the back entrances of the sheriff's office, where officials were moving in and out. There also was another tactical truck on the other side of the building.

On the side of the sheriff's office building there was one truck with a white trailer and some squad men dressed in green fatigues.

Earlier in the morning, a helicopter brought in the Superintendent of the Virginia State Police Department and an FBI special agent. They left in a helicopter and said they would not comment until after the press conference today at the Poff Building in Roanoke.

This Web report is being updated continually, and details will continue to be reported throughout the day.

Click Here for full text of the indictment. (PDF file)

 

 
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