Among other offenses, municipal employees accused of false imprisonment, extortion and theft of funds
A Bartow County grand jury indicted the City of White’s former police chief, city manager and police sergeant on three counts of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act on Wednesday.
David Johnny King, Jane Lanette Richards and Blake Douglas Scheff are accused of committing a string of RICO violations dating from Aug. 21, 2009, to Dec. 31, 2017.
According to the bill of indictment, the three “knowingly and willfully conspired together, with a common plan and purpose, to engage in an interrelated pattern of criminal activity … the motive and effect of which was pecuniary gain.”
Continuing, the indictment alleges that the three “illegally profited financially through their positions through the use of the police department and the clerk of municipal court to raise funds by a citation scheme that involved issuing city citations and demanding high fines and fees regardless of the actions of the individuals being cited.”
Furthermore, the indictment accuses the three of attempting to extort individuals by threatening to take State warrants out on them for not paying the fines to the municipality, as well as “negotiating” the fine amounts “so that more serious charges would not appear on an individual’s criminal or driver history.”
Richards, who is King’s spouse and Scheff’s mother-in-law, is also accused of illegally profiting by using an on-duty City employee for work on her private property, billing her own commercial property at residential water rates and using points obtained on municipal credit cards to acquire gift cards.
“In an effort to continue to illegally profit financially, the accused took State warrants and falsely imprisoned, under the color of the law, individuals who refused to pay fines through the City of White municipal court in an effort to encourage future victims of this scheme of intimidation and threats to pay the demanded fines to the City of White," the indictment states.
The three are additionally accused of attempting to cover up their illegal activities by destroying records and deleting the City of White’s water department software; the bill of indictment also alleges that King underreported his State income to hide the illegally obtained revenue.
The indictment cites no less than 40 incidents in which the three are accused of committing crimes such as theft by taking, theft of services, tampering with evidence, false swearing and false imprisonment.
Both King and Scheff were previously arrested in 2016, with a Georgia Bureau of Investigation probe charging them with counts of extortion, false imprisonment and violating public office oaths for illegal arrests that occurred in 2012 and 2015.
However, the two were released on bond and — until now — have faced no further legal ramifications for their accused actions.
Indeed, even after that arrest both King and Scheff remained employed as the City’s only full-time police officers, with King running an unsuccessful mayoral bid in 2017. King also qualified as a challenger for White Mayor Kim Dupree Billue’s seat earlier this year.
The bill of indictment accuses Scheff of arresting Lois Kitchens on April 25, 2015 “by a warrant and legal process which was manifestly illegal and showed malice and oppression” and accuses King of committing theft by taking against at least four victims, as well as falsely imprisoning Britnny Lee Brown on March 31, 2012.
Scheff and King are also accused of several incidents of theft by extortion and making false statements and writings via falsified uniform traffic citations.
King and Richards are accused of illegally taking money from the City of White four times in 2012, 11 times in 2013 and five times in 2014.
“On numerous occasions the weekly deposits made by Jane Lanette Richards into the City of White bank account were missing United States currency paid at City Hall,” the indictment states. “During the time periods where cash was missing from the deposits, King made cash deposits into his personal checking account.”
According to Bartow County Sheriff’s Office records, all three defendants were booked into the local jail around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. Each was released on a $30,000 property bond roughly two and a half hours later.