Sheriff Guilty of Illegal Gambling Activities
Special Report - May 19, 2008
Former Buncombe County Sheriff Bobby Medford has been convicted of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from illegal gambling operators, and for his involvement in an illegal gambling ring in Western North Carolina. A federal jury convicted Medford on May 15 of extortion, money laundering and illegal gambling, according the Asheville Citizen-Times. The former sheriff, who was found guilty on all 11 counts brought against him by prosecutors and who may serve the rest of his life in prison, will be sentenced in four to six weeks. Medford and former volunteer Special Deputy Guy Kenneth Penland, a co-defendant in the case who was also convicted on similar charges, were also ordered to pay back nearly $300,000 in payoffs they took from gambling operators over the years.
The Citizen-Times reports that several government witnesses testified against Medford during the trial, telling jurors they gave him thousands of dollars in bribes to look the other way while businesses operated illegal video poker machines, and to warn them in advance of law enforcement raids. According to the federal indictment against Medford, he extorted money from illegal video poker machine operators by: soliciting donations from gambling operators to his bi-annual golf tournament, demanding cash payouts from local businesses with illegal video poker machines, and convincing other area store-owners to place illegal video poker machines in their businesses. Medford used the money that he received from video poker machine operators for his own gambling activities at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino, often conducted during work hours, where he experienced a “net” loss of at least $54,000 in 2006, according to the indictment. Over 20 other individuals have pleaded guilty in the two-year government investigation of the illegal gambling ring.
The North Carolina General Assembly passed a law in June 2006 that incrementally phased-out video poker machines in the state and, as of July 2007, completely banned the use, ownership or operation of video poker machines.
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