By Liz Beavers
Tribune Managing Editor
PIEDMONT - A court date for March 19, 2013, has been set for Piedmont town foreman John Shingler, who was indicted in U.S. District Court in Martinsburg on six charges of embezzlement of federal stolen property.
The charges stem from the alleged illegal purchase of six FEMA trailers through the Town of Piedmont.
According to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore by special agent Eric A. Bishop of the Office of the Inspector General, the trailers were purchased under guidelines which required that they be used by the town at least a year or 18 months before they could be transferred to any other entity.
The transfer, whether it was a sale, loan, trade or gift, also had to be approved by the West Virginia State Agency for Surplus Property.
Bishop stated that, in an interview with Shingler during the investigation, the town foreman had said the trailers were to be used in various capacities by the town.
"One trailer was used for emergency radio equipment, one trailer was used by the Piedmont Fire Department, one was positioned at the water treatment plant for testing, one was positioned at a site for a sewer project, and two were positioned at the city building for storage," he said.
When the trailers were confiscated during the investigation, however, three were recovered from Shingler's property in Westernport, one was recovered from property owned by the late Michael "Mickey" Racco, one was located on the property of Shingler's brother Glenn in Westernport, and one was located on property owned by Benjamin Smith.
Bishop went on to state that Shingler said he had "been informed by the FEMA representative that private individuals could purchase the trailers for personal use."
Former Piedmont mayor and council member Pat Amoroso told Bishop that "he had not seen (the trailers) being used by the city for any purposes," and that he had actually seen them on only two occasions, "once when they were all brought to Piedmont's lot for an audit or inspection," and ... "the trailer parked at Michael Racco's property."
The trailers were listed on the National Crime Information Center's (NCIC) database of stolen property on Oct. 27, 2011.
"During the recovery from Shingler's residence, (he) made several statements to include he should have known the deal to get the trailers was too good to be true, and he wanted to be able to provide an opportunity for the employees of Piedmont to get one of the trailers," Bishop said.
In an interview with West Virginia State Police Sgt. J.M. Droppleman, city finance commissioner Freda Fisher had agreed that, "the trailers were purchased from money provided by individuals and the trailers were intended as a reward for loyal service to the city."
Page 2 of 2 - The next meeting of the Piedmont mayor and council is Wednesday, Jan. 9, at 6 p.m.