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Attorney says Bradshaw a victim of circumstance

August 02, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A retired West Virginia State Police sergeant on trial for mail fraud was a "victim of circumstance" and federal prosecutors have no proof he took money from the Martinsburg detachment he once supervised, the former officer's attorney told jurors Tuesday during opening statements.

Craig B. Manford's remarks on behalf of his client, George William Bradshaw III of Martinsburg, followed those of assistant U.S. Attorney Paul T. Camilletti, who used a computer-aided presentation to simplify what procedural actions the prosecutor claimed were manipulated by Bradshaw for personal financial gain.

Bradshaw has been indicted on one charge of mail fraud.

"They took apart file cabinets to find this money," said Camilletti of $18,542 discovered missing from 20 cases investigated by the detachment's officers.

Authorities say Bradshaw, as the detachment commander, was the "evidence custodian" when money seized by state police from drug dealers and others arrested from Oct. 1, 1999, to about Sept. 13, 2002, was improperly taken.

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Manford said authorities have no proof Bradshaw took money.

"Unfortunately for George, he's a victim of circumstance," Manford said.

With no "smoking gun" to suggest theft, Manford told the jury that federal authorities resorted to alleging mail fraud because it was an easier charge to prove.

"There is no proof George Bradshaw took these moneys," Manford said.

Camilletti's first witness, retired State Police Lt. Fred E. Wagoner, testified that he ordered a sergeant stationed in Martinsburg to turn the detachment offices "upside down" to find the first sum ($341) reported missing in October 2002.

The law enforcement agency's insurance covered the loss when the money wasn't found. But upon learning two months later that $842 in a separate case was missing, Wagoner told jurors he realized then that the first reported loss was not accidental.

Money seized from individuals by the West Virginia State Police most often is placed in an interest-bearing bank account, except in certain types of cases such as credit card fraud, Wagoner said. A series of reports are produced and filed to account for the seizures, which can be returned to the individual if ordered by a state court.

On one occasion in question, Wagoner explained how a seized $20 bill was supposedly placed in a safety deposit box at a local bank in July 2000, according to a log sheet maintained to track items stored there.

But the currency itself actually wasn't printed until 2001, Wagoner confirmed.

After more than four hours of testimony orchestrated by Camilletti, Wagoner was questioned by Manford, who was able to gain Wagoner's acknowledgment that his client wasn't the only sergeant who had access to the evidence room, where documentation of seized money and property is maintained.

Wagoner admitted he was unsure how many of the detachment's troopers had keys to the room, but disputed suggestions the door knob to the storage area was faulty.

The government's case against Bradshaw alleges forms used to document seized property and cash were replaced with altered or fraudulent forms and mailed to the agency's headquarters in South Charleston, W.Va.

When the trial resumes this morning, Camilletti is expected to recall Marguerite McHenry, an FBI forensic document examiner, who was asked by investigators to compare 23 "questioned" documents to samples of Bradshaw's writing. More than a dozen other witnesses are expected to testify in Camilletti's presentation of the government's evidence.

Before proceedings were halted about 4:30 p.m., McHenry testified that a portion of the writing on some of the forms in question could not be linked to Bradshaw. In more than one instance, McHenry said she could not determine whether a portion of the writing on some of the documents was Bradshaw's.

Prior to McHenry's testimony, former detachment assistant commander Timothy C. Krisik testified that initials, which appeared to be his on two documents showed to him by Camilletti, were not written by his hand.

Toward the end of his investigation in 2004, Wagoner confirmed that Bradshaw told him in a recorded interview that the retired sergeant thought someone was setting him up and maintained his innocence despite what the evidence suggested.

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