Former Manning police chief to be sentenced in the fall, admits to theft of almost $80K confiscated in traffic stop

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MANNING — On the day before his trial on multiple federal charges was slated to begin Friday, Manning’s former police chief, Gary Blair Shaffer, pleaded guilty to two counts of a five-count indictment before U.S. District Judge Bruce H. Hendricks at the U.S. District Courthouse in Charleston.

Shaffer, 60, pleaded guilty to theft of government funds and making a false statement (to federal agents), counts one and five on the five-count indictment, shortly after 9:30 a.m. Thursday. Hendricks accepted Shaffer’s guilty pleas on the two counts and will sentence the former police chief after receiving and reviewing a presentencing report prepared by the U.S. Probation Office.

According to U.S. Attorney Sherri A. Lydon, evidence implicating Shaffer with the theft of government funds stems from a traffic stop on Sept. 12, 2015, when $80,000 was seized from two individuals. Lydon said the money should have been deposited into a City of Manning bank account with the Bank of Clarendon; however, seven days later, Shaffer began making large cash deposits into ATMs. By Nov. 20, 2015, Shaffer had deposited approximately $78,514 into his personal accounts via cash ATM deposits, she added.

In May 2016, a state court ordered Manning Police Department to return a portion of the money to the individual from whom the money was seized in September 2015, Lydon added. On May 23, 2016, three checks from Shaffer’s personal accounts were issued to the attorney who represented the individuals in the traffic stop. The amount of the checks written from Shaffer’s personal accounts totaled the exact amount that the state court had ordered to be returned, she said.

In a February 2017 interview with an FBI agent, Shaffer stated that the deposits were of money he had been saving from various sources for years, Lydon shared.

“Shaffer admitted in federal court that this statement was false,” Lydon said in a news release on Friday.

According to Lydon, Shaffer is facing a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.

According to the Clerk’s Office at the federal courthouse, counts two, three and four of the five-count indictment would probably be dropped at Shaffer’s fall sentencing hearing.

The charges against Shaffer resulted from an investigation by the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brook Bowers Andrews and William Camden Lewis in Columbia.

Shaffer’s Jan. 7 arrest on federal charges came five months after his job as Manning’s police chief was terminated by city officials. Shaffer fought his termination before the city’s Grievance Committee, whose members recommended the city overturn Shaffer’s termination. City officials denied the committee recommendation and upheld Shaffer’s termination.