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Grand Jury Hears Testimony in Case of Alleged Jail Skimming

January 21, 1992

ROANOKE, Va. (AP) _ A federal grand jury began hearing testimony Tuesday in the case of a city sheriff who allegedly skimmed $377,700 in payments to his jail.

An investigation by the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service began shortly after Bristol Sheriff Marshall E. Honaker bought a house worth six times his annual salary.

Honaker, who has not been charged with a crime, resigned last week as president of the National Sheriff’s Association. He is taking a leave of absence until the investigation is complete.

Subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury were City Manager Paul Spangler, city Treasurer Emma Muller, jailer Robbie Branson and Jo Honaker, the victims’ advocate for the sheriff’s department and Honaker’s niece.

In an affidavit unsealed last week, IRS special agent Jack Bumgardner said Honaker came to the attention of authorities because of ″a recent material increase in personal wealth that was not explained by known legal sources of income.″

He said ″this wealth increase has been directly attributed to Honaker’s diversion to a personal checking account of numerous checks″ payable to the sheriff’s department in Bristol, which is 170 miles from Roanoke.

Federal agents raided the sheriff’s home and office Jan. 10. They seized his $245,000 home, truck and car and found $63,281 in cash stashed in his office desk, the affidavit said.

Honaker has said he will not comment on the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Morgan Scott said Tuesday he won’t comment on the case or the grand jury proceedings.

The sheriff’s department controls the operation of the jail, one of the largest federally accredited prisoner holding facilities in southwest Virginia.

The District of Columbia pays the sheriff’s department $55 per prisoner per day while it costs the department only about $6 per prisoner per day to care for them, Bumgardner said.

From July 1986 through October 1990, the sheriff’s department received $512,820.60 from the District of Columbia and the U.S. Marshal’s office and paid $135,119.75 of it to the city, the affidavit said.

The remaining $377,700.85, or 72 percent of the total, was put in Honaker’s personal checking account at Dominion Bank, Bumgardner said. Honaker tapped the account to buy $10,000 certificates of deposit for each of his two children, a pickup truck, a car and to pay for nearly half the cost of his house, he said.

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