Former Manning City Police Chief Blair Shaffer was arrested by FBI agents on Monday morning and was taken to Charleston for booking.
Shaffer first stepped into the publicly negative spotlight when he was fired by the City of Manning six months ago in what was, at the time, a questionable manner. Shaffer disputed his termination, going before a Grievance Board and eventually before the Manning City Council for review. The Council ultimately upheld his termination, and no further actions were taken against Shaffer by the City, nor did Shaffer pursue further action against the City.
It seems, however, the City of Manning was not the only organization looking into Shaffer’s past actions. After an investigation which began in 2016, the FBI issued and executed a Federal warrant on Monday morning, taking Shaffer into custody. Within hours, his bond hearing was held at the U.S. District Courthouse in Charleston.
During the hearing on Monday afternoon, U.S. Magistrate Judge Bristow Marchant read the Miranda rights to Shaffer, ensuring Shaffer was cognizant of all of his rights before proceeding further.
Shaffer first requested a court-appointed attorney, citing lack of liquid funds and submitting the proper paperwork, which had previously been filled out. Marchant approved his request, pending verification of the information submitted in his application paperwork. An attorney was available to represent him at the bond hearing.
The charges were then unsealed, and Marchant read the charges into the record. Indictments had been filed in Columbia, and Shaffer was indicted on the following five charges.
Count 1: Theft of Federal Funds
The Grand Jury charged that between September 12-19, 2015, Shaffer stole federal funds of over $5,000 which had come in to the City of Manning through various Federal programs providing grants and assistance. This violated Title 18, United States Code, Section 666, and it carries a penalty of no more than 10 years in prison, $250,000 in fines, three years of probation and a $100 special assessment fee.
Count 2: Money Laundering
The Grand Jury charged that between September 19 and November 11, 2015, Shaffer conducted and attempted to conduct financial transactions to disguise the source of money brought into the Manning Police Department as a result of the distribution of controlled substances. This violated Title 18, United States Code, Section 1956(a)(3)(B), and it carries a penalty of no more than 20 years in prison, $500,000 in fines, three years of probation and a $100 special assessment fee.
Count 3: Structuring
Federal law mandates that any financial institution which engages in any currency transaction in excess of $10,000 with a customer must report this transaction to the Department of the Treasury. Individuals who engage in illegal activities, such as money laundering, often make multiple cash deposits on the same or consecutive days, ensuring each deposit is lower than the $10,000 threshold in an attempt to avoid being reported. This is called structuring and is prohibited by Title 31, United States Code, Section 5324(a).
The Grand Jury charged that between September 19 and November 11, 2015, Shaffer deposited or caused to be deposited $78,514 in cash to multiple accounts belonging to Shaffer and his wife. The Grand Jury further charged that Shaffer knew of the reporting requirements and structured the deposits to avoid being reported.
Shaffer made 72 individual deposits, which ranged in amounts from $77 to $5,000. In most cases, multiple deposits were made on the same days. On September 21, 2015, alone, 10 deposits of $1,000 were made, and one deposit of $1,240 was made.
Structuring carries a penalty of no more than five years in prison, $250,000 in fines, one year of probation and a $100 special assessment fee.
Count 4: False Statement
The Grand Jury charged that on or about December 2, 2016, Shaffer told an FBI Special Agent the cash deposited from September 19 through November 11, 2015, was money he received from his brother. The charges state “The statement and representation was false because, as Gary Blair Shaffer then and there knew, he stole the money from the Manning Police Department.” This violates Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001(a) and carries a penalty of no more than five years in prison, $250,000 in fines, one year of probation and a $100 special assessment fee.
Count 5: False Statement
The Grand Jury charged that on or about February 3, 2017, Shaffer told an FBI Special Agent that the cash he deposited between September 19 through November 11, 2015, was money he had saved. Again, the charges assert Shaffer knew this was false, as he had stolen the money from the Manning Police Department. This violates the same code as Count 4 and carries the same penalties.
With the first three charges, there will also be forfeiture penalties. Any money stolen must be paid back, including any interest gained, and any property, real or personal, which Shaffer obtained through the violations, either directly or indirectly, will be forfeit. In the case of the structuring charge, Shaffer will also forfeit “any property used or intended to be used, in any manner or part, to commit or facility the commission of the offense.”
If Shaffer cannot produce the money stolen, “it is the intent of the United States…to seek forfeiture of any other property of the said Defendant up to the value of the above forfeitable property.”
After the charges were read, Shaffer entered a plea of not guilty on all charges. His bond hearing attorney stated Shaffer requested a jury trial and requested he (Shaffer) be present at any and all hearings or proceedings related to his case.
United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon requested a secured bond, although she stated it could be a low amount. Marchant asked her if she wanted Shaffer to surrender any passport, and Lydon declined, stating she felt Shaffer was not a flight risk due to his strong ties to Clarendon County.
Marchant set the bond at $25,000. As Shaffer had shown documents stating he was not currently liquid, Marchant allowed Shaffer to put up the home owned by himself and his wife, in which they have $60-70,000 in equity, as security for the bond.
During the proceedings, however long they may take, Shaffer and anyone living in the home with Shaffer will be required to surrender or dispose of any firearms. Shaffer may travel out of the state, as long as he has express permission from his case officer.
If Shaffer violates these or any other of his bond conditions, he could lose the bond security and could be arrested and detained until his trial. He could also be charged with contempt of court, which would bring further jail or monetary penalties.
Marchant stated all motions for the case must be filed before January 25. However, no trial dates were discussed.