A fifth person has pleaded guilty in federal court this month to conspiracy to transport or receive stolen property in connection with an undercover FBI operation focused on Cherryville in 2011 that involved six total men, three of whom were cops.
John Ashley Hendricks, 47, of Cherryville, pleaded guilty to the charge on Wednesday, Lia Bantavani, public information officer with the U.S. District Attorney’s Office in the state’s Western District, told the Times-News on Thursday.
According to prosecutors, Hendricks conspired with five other men, including three Cherryville police officers, one Gaston County Sheriff’s reserve officer and a second Cherryville resident, in safeguarding stolen goods through the area in 2011.
The defendants, arrested in October, worked alongside undercover federal agents posing as criminals, and received monetary rewards for their help. The Federal Bureau of Investigation established the sting operation to catch area cops believed to be participating in illegal activity. The agency was initially suspicious of Cherryville officer Frankie Dellinger and so requested local officers’ legal authority in the affair.
Four others who also pleaded guilty Jan. 3 to conspiracy to transport or receive stolen property along with conspiracy to extort under color of official right included Mark Ray Hoyle, Casey Justin Crawford, Wesley Clayton Golden and David Paul Mauney III, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Crawford, 32, and Mauney, 23, were Cherryville officers at the time of the incidents, while Golden, 39, was a county reserve officer.
Hoyle, 39, like Hendricks, was a Cherryville resident the officers recruited to participate in the operation. Federal officials said Hoyle also pleaded guilty to money laundering.
Dellinger, 40, is the only remaining defendant who has not admitted to wrongdoing. A sentencing date for the other five men has not been set.
Hendricks, Mauney and Crawford are currently out on bond while Dellinger, Hoyle and Golden remain in the Mecklenburg County Jail.
Bantavani said Hendricks faces a maximum prison sentence of five years and up to $250,000 in fines. While Mauney and Crawford could each also pay at least $250,000 in fines, they face concurrent sentences of up to five years apiece for transportation conspiracy and up to two decades each for extortion conspiracy, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Hoyle, on the other hand, faces a similar restitution payment and sentence along with 20 years maximum for money laundering, which, again, would run concurrently with any other sentences, Bantavani said.
Since the scandal shook the Cherryville Police Department to its core this past fall, Police Chief Woodrow Burgess and Sgt. Mike Allred were placed on suspension. Burgess later resigned, and Sgt. Cam Jenks filled the head position.