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Woman arraigned in alleged charity scam

May 27, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A self-described heroin addict is believed to have pocketed thousands of dollars from area businesses that gave her money in support of the American Heart Association, not her addiction, according to police who have been investigating the scam complaints and court records.

Angela Renee Shirley, 31, of 561 Hidden Hollow Drive in Kearneysville, W.Va., had been arraigned on seven misdemeanor counts of obtaining money by false pretenses as of Wednesday afternoon, according to magistrate court records in Jefferson and Berkeley counties.

Shirley was released from custody Wednesday morning after posting bail for $7,500 and $12,500 bonds set in separate arraignment hearings, according to court records.

The exact amount of money allegedly scammed from businesses in the Tri-State area in the last two months is unknown, but Martinsburg Police Department Patrolman J.D. Luciano said in his complaint it is believed to be "in the thousands," according to court records.

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Piggy's bar owner Wilbur Alger told West Virginia State Police Cpl. J.D. Burkhart that he gave Shirley a total of $400, beginning April 3 with a $100 check, according to the officer's complaint.

The woman told Alger that she was the daughter of Jefferson County Sheriff Robert "Bobby" Shirley, and the sheriff's department had donated $600 toward her fundraising goal for the heart association, according to Burkhart's complaint.

The sheriff's department never made such a donation, and Burkhart said Wednesday that Shirley is the sheriff's daughter-in-law.

Alger told Burkhart that he later talked with the sheriff about the donations he made and was told his daughter-in-law most likely was using the money to support her heroin addiction, according to his complaint.

In an interview with Burkhart, Angela Shirley admitted she used Alger's money to buy heroin, but also had collected some money for a heart association fundraiser in March at South Jefferson Elementary School, where her two sons are enrolled.

The school principal told Luciano that Angela Shirley only turned in $70 to the school, according to the officer's complaint.

John Orem of Regional Bonding told Luciano that he gave $200 to Angela Shirley for the heart association, but became suspicious after she returned asking for a third donation, according to the officer's complaint.

The Strand hair salon and The Emporium clothing store, both downtown Martinsburg businesses, also gave donations to Angela Shirley, according to Luciano's complaint.

Angela Shirley obtained a $30 donation from Sensual Nights, an adult business in Bunker Hill, W.Va., and $25 from Shep's Sporting Goods near Martinsburg, according to Burkhart's complaint.

Individuals who gave money to Angela Shirley told police that the defendant had collection sheets with her that made her efforts appear "official," according to Burkhart's complaint.

Angela Shirley, in an interview with Burkhart, said she "collected a lot of cash from people and would attempt to compile a list of people and businesses she collected from," according to the officer's complaint.

The scam allegations surfaced little more than a week after a grand jury in Berkeley County Circuit Court indicted Angela Shirley on felony counts of forgery and uttering.

The charges stem from allegations that Angela Shirley helped co-defendant David C. Brode Jr., also of Kearneyville, cash a stolen check in August 2008, according to court records. Brode told state police that he forged the check in Bobby Shirley's kitchen.

Angela Shirley told police that she didn't think Brode would do anything illegal because he knew Bobby Shirley was her father-in-law, according to court records.

She told the investigating West Virginia State Police officer who investigated the case she used heroin prior to uttering the stolen check, according to court records.

Anyone who might have given money for the American Heart Association or related causes to Angela Shirley may call Luciano at the Martinsburg Police Department at 304-264-2100 or Burkhart at the Martinsburg detachment of the West Virginia State Police at 304-267-0001.

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