Valdosta Daily Times

October 11, 2012

Former Brooks sheriff sentenced to prison

Dean Poling
The Valdosta Daily Times

ALBANY — A former Brooks County sheriff has been sentenced to federal prison for embezzlement and obstruction.

U.S. District Judge W. Louis Sands sentenced former Brooks Sheriff Richard Chafin Wednesday to 13 months in prison and three years of supervised release, according to the office of Michael J. Moore, U.S. attorney of the Middle District of Georgia.

Chafin must also pay restitution of $63,730 to Brooks County.

The sentence comes following the May conviction of Chafin on charges of embezzlement from programs receiving federal funds and misleading conduct/obstruction, according to federal court records. Two years prior, Judge Sands heard the Chafin case as a bench trial, meaning there was no jury; the judge hears the case and decides the verdict. A defendant can request a bench trial.

The case itself began several years ago when the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Thomasville Field office initiated an investigation into “irregularities and expenditures, which occurred with several accounts at the Brooks County Sheriff’s Office and monies received as part of a federal grant, while Chafin was serving as the Brooks County sheriff,” according to a past release from GBI Special Agent Steven Turner.

The judge’s May 2012 ruling found that Chafin, as sheriff, “personally wrote at least 225 checks on the jail commissary account totaling more than $65,000,” according to court documents. The dates are noted as between 2007-08.

Chafin told sheriff’s office employees that the checks were for an informant in a drug investigation; however, he cashed each check at various convenience stores and “used

portions of the proceeds to buy lottery tickets which he then scratched off on-site in his vehicle,” according to court documents.

Investigators found no indication that any of the money went to an informant. No other law officers were aware of an informant, according to court documents.

 Though Chafin claimed the money was used for a drug informant, the judge found that Chafin’s explanation lacked credibility and proved contrary to other evidence provided at court.

Chafin served as Brooks County sheriff from April 1987 to Dec. 31, 2008.

“The public counts on their elected sheriffs to uphold the law, not break it,” U.S. Attorney Moore said in a statement Wednesday. “By embezzling money and then lying to the agents who were investigating the case, Mr. Chafin violated the public’s trust. My office will continue to make public corruption cases a priority with the goal of restoring the shine to the badge that former Sheriff Chafin tarnished.”

Chafin remains on bond pending surrender to the federal Bureau of Prisons. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Crane handled the prosecution.