A northwest Georgia grand jury has indicted a former police chief, his wife and the couple’s son-in-law for allegedly running a racketeering scheme that allowed them to profit from fines for city citations. As the city’s profits increased, so did the family’s salaries, according to prosecutors.
“The accused illegally profited financially by negotiating fines to be paid on city citations so that more serious charges would not appear on an individual’s criminal or driver history,” the indictment states.
But former Chief David King’s attorney says the timing of the indictment is suspicious: It’s been more than 3½ years since two arrests were made in the case. And the indictment comes as the former City of White police chief is running for mayor of the tiny Bartow County town.
“If it was so bad, they should’ve pursued it vigilantly,” Lester Tate, defense attorney, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “They have gone out and tried to build some massive case for political purposes. What they’ve done is try to take Andy Griffith and turn him into Machine Gun Kelly.”
In March 2016, King and his only full-time officer — his son-in-law, Blake Scheff — were arrested and charged with false imprisonment, extortion and violating oaths of public office, The AJC previously reported. King and Scheff, who were both fired, were arrested after the GBI and FBI executed search warrants at the White Police Department and White City Hall. King’s wife, Jane Richards, served as the city’s clerk of municipal court and city manager.
Richards was not previously charged in the case. But on Wednesday afternoon, all three were indicted on three counts of racketeering and booked into the Bartow jail, records showed. King, Richards and Scheff were released about two hours later after posting $30,000 bond each. Richards’ mug shot was not immediately available Thursday.
The three family members used their positions to scam money from citations from August 2009 until December 2017, according to the indictment. The two officers issued phony citations and then city hall required high fines to clear the charges, the indictment states. And if those being cited did not comply, they were threatened with state warrants, according to prosecutors.
“The fines and fees collected by the City of White municipal court increased the total revenue of the city,” the indictment states. “This allowed the city to continue to raise the salaries of the accused.”
The three are also accused of destroying records implicating them in the scheme, according to the indictment. King also allegedly under-reported his income on tax returns.
But according to Tate, there is no evidence of any money missing from White.
“If you’re going to accuse somebody of being a racketeer, wouldn’t you want to show the person personally profited in some way?” Tate said.
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