South Carolina

Former SC police chief pleads guilty to theft of federal funds and lying to FBI

John Monk

Former Manning police chief Gary Shaffer pleaded guilty in federal court in Charleston on Thursday in connection with the theft of some $80,800 in federal funds from the city police department.

The money came from a September 2015 traffic stop in which Manning police officers seized $80,800 from two individuals, assistant U.S. Attorney Will Lewis told U.S. Judge Bruce Howe Hendricks during a court hearing in Charleston.

Shortly after that stop, Shaffer began making large cash deposits into his bank account, deposits ranging from $500 to $5,000, Lewis told the judge. Before the seizure, Shaffer had just $76 in his bank account, but by November of that year, Shaffer had deposited approximately $78,514 into his account, Lewis said.

Seizures of cash believed to be connected to narcotics trafficking were supposed to have been deposited into a City of Manning bank account with the Bank of Clarendon. But between September and the end of December 2015, there were no cash deposits in the City of Manning bank account exceeding $50,000, Lewis told the judge.

Shaffer was indicted in January and charged with theft of federal funds, money laundering, structuring and making a false statement to an FBI agent, according to an indictment in the case.

Federal prosecutors agreed to drop some charges, and Shaffer pleaded guilty on Thursday to theft of government funds and lying to a federal agent.

Manning had been fired as Manning police chief in August 2018 for issues unrelated to the criminal charges, Lewis told the judge.

Manning, with a population of about 4,000, is the county seat of Clarendon County, a rural county between Columbia and the Atlantic coast.

The indictment said that from September to November 2015, Shaffer siphoned off proceeds from the “distribution of controlled substances.”

Then Shaffer deposited that money into multiple accounts that belonged to him and his wife, the indictment said.

Shaffer “unlawfully and knowingly” made sure each deposit was less than $10,000 to avoid federal oversight, the indictment said.

A federal law that seeks to identify drug traffickers and tax evaders requires banks to report all deposits of more than $10,000. People who break up large deposits to keep them under $10,000 are said to be “structuring” their deposits to avoid triggering bank reporting requirements.

According to the indictment, Shaffer lied to an FBI agent when he told the agent, who was investigating Shaffer’s bank deposit history, that he had received some of the money he deposited from his brother.

The FBI agent then interviewed Shaffer’s brother, who told the agent he knew nothing about the money Shaffer claimed to have gotten.

Assistant U.S. attorneys prosecuting the case were Brook Andrews and Lewis. Federal public defender Cody Groeber represented Shaffer.