Pickens County Sheriff steps down, coroner sworn in

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By:  Ariel Cochran

By WIAT

PICKENS COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — UPDATE (10 a.m.): The following was released by the Department of Justice:

 A federal indictment was unsealed against the longstanding sheriff of Pickens County for wire fraud and filing false tax returns, announced U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town, FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp, Jr. and IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Holloman.  Also today, a plea agreement was filed in federal district court.  According to that agreement, the defendant has agreed to plead guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of filing a false tax return.

David Abston, of Gordo, Alabama,  has been charged with seven counts of wire fraud and two counts of filing a false tax return.

Attorney Jay Town said, “A sitting county sheriff is alleged to have defrauded a food bank and a church for his personal gain at the expense of the underprivileged that the food bank serves. Our office will continue to aggressively pursue and prosecute public officials who violate the public trust for their own personal gain.”

The press release further states,

According to the indictment, as sheriff of Pickens County, Abston was responsible for the care and custody of prisoners housed in the Pickens County Jail.  That responsibility included feeding inmates housed in the jail.  In exchange, Abston was entitled to receive a specified food allowance per prisoner per day from the state of Alabama and other governmental entities.  Between 2014 and 2018, Abston received more than $400,000 in food allowance money from the state of Alabama and other governmental entities.  During that same period, Abston—like many sheriffs in Alabama—had a practice of keeping for himself any food allowance money that he did not spend to feed inmates.

During that same period Abston engaged in a scheme to defraud the West Alabama Food Bank, as well the Highland Baptist Church of Gordo, Alabama—where Abston was a member—in order to reduce his jail food expenses and increase the amount of food allowance money he could keep.

 

The press release refers to the indictment stating that Abston filed false tax returns for the 2015 and 2016 tax years, because he failed to report all of his income for those years.

Each count of wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years and a fine of up to $250,000.  The maximum penalty for filing a false tax return is three years in prison and a $100,000 fine for each count.

According to the DOJ, The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service investigated the case, which Assistant U.S. Attorney John B. Ward is prosecuting.

The DOJ defines that an indictment contains only charges and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

You can read the press release in full by clicking here.

Original Story: Pickens County DA Andrew Hamlin tells CBS 42 that David Abston has resigned as sheriff for Pickens County. Pickens County Coroner Chad Harless was sworn in as sheriff Friday morning.

Hamlin says Abston is the subject of a federal investigation. He would not go into detail about the investigation.