By Liz Beavers
Tribune Managing Editor
PIEDMONT - A Grand Jury in U.S. District Court in Martinsburg has indicted Piedmont town foreman John Shingler on eight different charges, according to Cpl. J.E. Whisner of the West Virginia State Police.
The charges stemmed from allegations that six FEMA trailers were illegally purchased through the Town of Piedmont in 2009. All six of those trailers have since been recovered, including three that were found at Shingler's residence in Westernport, one that was found on property owned by former council member Michael "Mickey" Racco, now deceased, and one that was located at the Westernport property of Shingler's brother Glenn.
Whisner traveled to Martinsburg on Friday to present the evidence he had gathered during the investigation, which has been ongoing since September 2011.
Whisner said the jury found the evidence presented to be sufficient to indict Shingler on "six counts of embezzling of federal property and two other counts."
He expects to receive the full information on the indictments on Monday.
According to Whisner, all six of the trailers have been impounded and will remain so "until the federal government decides what to do with them."
According to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, Md., by special agent Eric A. Bishop of the Office of the Inspector General, qualified organizations - including Piedmont - were permitted to purchase the surplus FEMA trailers "at substantially reduced prices if they complied with certain regulations."
The regulations included the requirements that:
1. The items were put into use by the town within one year of obtaining them;
2. The items were to be used by the town for a year to 18 months before the town could "sell, loan, trade or otherwise dispose of the items; and
3. The town was to obtain permission from the West Virginia State Agency for Surplus Property before they disposed of the property.
When the trailers were purchased, the names of mayor Ebbie Gilmore, now deceased, and town foreman Shingler were listed as "Piedmont's authorized representatives" for the transaction.
According to the affidavit, investigation into the accusations began when Ray Hall, a member of the Piedmont Town Council who is now serving a year in the Potomac Highlands Regional Jail on unrelated charges, had reported that he "obtained information which revealed that Mary Rice, Piedmont town clerk, had collected $1,000 for each trailer from various individuals, some of whom were Piedmont officials and employees, which was then deposited into Piedmont's general fund account. A check from Piedmont's account was then used to purchase the six FEMA trailers."
The investigator stated that, in an interview with the town clerk, it was discovered that four people had provided her with money for the trailers: "Michael Racco, Piedmont finance commission, now deceased, provided $1,000 for one trailer, J. Shingler, Piedmont town foreman, provided $3,000 for three trailers, Rick Montgomery provided $1,000 for one trailer, and Susie Clark, currently a Piedmont town councilwoman, provided $1,000 for one trailer."
Page 2 of 2 - Clark resigned her position on the town council in October 2009.
Whisner said he expects a preliminary hearing date to be set soon for Shingler.
A spokesperson for the U.S. District Court could not be reached over the weekend, and it was not known if any other indictments are expected.