Part 2 of our series on Fannin County, Brenda Weavers Resignation from the JQC, and the litigation of Mark Thomason.
District Attorney B. Alison Sosebee received a request from Superior Court Judge Brenda Weaver to drop the charges against Publisher Mark Thomason and Attorney Russell Stookey. Sosebee will not prosecute and filed a nolle pros this morning, July 7th in the Pickens County Court system and awaits a judge’s signature. Judge Weaver cites reasons in letter below:
Blue Ridge Police Chief Johnny Scearce wants to be the next Fannin County Sheriff. He boasts of his law enforcement career of 35 years. You have seen the signs, “Choose Johnny.” His website is full of positive accomplishments, “Integrity & Experience – That’s the difference!” Scearce is planning to end hunger in Fannin County by planting a community garden using inmates. He wants to remove the county from the Zell Miller Mountain Parkway Drug Task Force. Scearce claims his plan is to put his own trained agents to rid the county of drugs and use what’s confiscated from drug busts to benefit Fannin county. He has also promised that the Sheriff’s office will be transparent.
Transparency? Johnny Scearce convinced the Blue Ridge City Council to purchase a licence plate scanner. Scearce told the council about how much he could raise revenue with the scanner. Claiming it would pay for itself in a couple of months. The scanner cost approximately $19,000. Click here to watch the video of Scearce’s licence plate scanner presentation to the city council.
On April 4th. FetchYourNews.com did an open records request asking for licence plate scanner detailed reports. Chief of Police Johnny Scearce sent my request to city attorney David Syfan. Syfan has come up with several reasons as to why FYN can not see the reports. As of May 15th we have received no reports. If elected will Scearce purchase licence plate scanners for deputy cars. Will he scan every tag in the county? Transparency?
Scearce wants to pull out of the drug task force. On February 9th FYN sent the City of Blue Ridge the following open records request: “Please provide the complete file of everything confiscated by the Blue Ridge City Police Department from 1/1/2008 – 2/9/2016.
Include all drug, property, cars, guns, EVERYTHING………… The complete file from confiscation to liquidation.” Once again city attorney David Syfan responded for Scearce. Syfan quoted a ridiculous amount of time to fill the request and it would cost hundreds and possibly thousands to fill the request. Poor record keeping should not cost citizens extra when making a request. Georgia open records laws say that they can choose to charge for records. As of May 15th FYN has not received anything from our request. One questions if Scearce won’t let us see the confiscated records of the city will he be transparent and show us what he confiscates within the county. If elected he wants to pull out of the Drug Task Force. The Drug Task Force has several layers of accountability when it comes to confiscated items.
Johnny Scearce spent most of 2005 as the center point, alleged suspect, of a Georgia Bureau of Investigations case. (Click here to read the GBI file on the case)
On October 26, 2004 Clifford Richard “Rick” Jones walked into BB&T bank in Blue Ridge and sat down at the desk of loan officer Rhonda Taylor and requested a loan using the name William James Prowse. Prowse “Jones” had no identification. This is where Scearce comes into the story.
The follow statements are taken from the GBI investigation. (Click here to read the GBI file).
This is where our story starts.
“On January 13, 2005 Special Agent J.K. Crook talked with Appalachian Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Cathy Cox-Brakefield regarding this case. Agent Crook was told that an inmate in the Gilmer County Detention Center, Rick Jones, gave information to his attorney that Blue Ridge Police Chief, Johnny Scearce, assisted him in obtaining a fraudulent loan with BB&T bank in Blue Ridge.”
“Special Agent J.K. Crook conducted an interview with Clifford Richard “Rick” Jones, Nick name “Yank”. Jones was incarcerated”
“Jones stated essentially the following. Jones applied for a $3,800 loan at BB&T bank in Blue Ridge. Jones knew he would not be able to get a loan using his real name and identification so he told the loan officer, Rhonda Taylor, that his name was William Prowse. Jones had taken Prowse identity and memorized his social security number and date of birth. Prowse had no knowledge that Jones was using his identity. Taylor requested an identification card on Jones under the name Prowse. He told Taylor that he had lost his licence. Jones told her that Blue Ridge Police Chief Johnny Scearce could vouch for him that he was Prowse. Taylor agreed to let Scearce vouch for him. Jones later went by Scearce’s office, called Taylor and then put Scearce on the phone to Taylor and had him vouch for Jones as Prowse. Scearce said to Taylor, “I’m sitting here with William Prowse.”
“Scearce told Taylor that he had known Prowse (Jones) for over twenty years. He told Taylor that Prowse had a nickname, “Yank”, and that Prowse played ball with Scearce. Scearce told Taylor that Jones real name was William Prowse”.
“Jones even obtained another $2,000 in the form of a cash advance. Jones fraudulently obtained a total of $5,800 from the bank with Scearce’s help.”
“On January 14, 2005 Special Agent J.K Crook conducted an interview with Rhonda Taylor.”
“ Jones represented himself as William Prowse to her in October 2004 and applied for a loan. He had no identification and said he lost his license. Taylor confirmed information received from Jones. Jones told Taylor that Blue Ridge Police Chief Johnny Scearce knew him and could vouch for who he was, she figured that if sceare could, that would be good enough for her. She would not question the Chief’s integrity. Jones left the bank and a short time later she received a call from Jones. He was in Scearce’s office and put Scearce on the phone. Scearce vouched for Jones saying that his real name was William Prowse. Scearce said he had know Jones (Prowse) a long and had played ball with him. Scearce called Taylor back later that day and told her her was not co-signing with Prowse for the loan.”
“On March 7th Special Agent J.K. Crook spoke to Fannin County Investigator Greg Newman regarding the case.”
“Investigator Newman talked with Johnny Scearce about the allegations made by Jones. Johnny Scearce told investigator Newman that he had talked to Rhonda Taylor at BB&T Bank in Blue Ridge but told her the man getting the loan was named Rick Jones. Johnny Scearce denied telling Ms. Taylor that Jones name was William Prowse.”
“On tuesday March 22nd GBI Special Agent in Charge J.A. Cagle transferred responsibility for the case to GBI Special Agent Kimberly Williams.”
“On May 5th Special Agent Kimberly Williams and Kenny Crook of the Appalachian Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office interviewed Johnny Scearce, the Chief of Police of Blue Ridge with regard to his involvement in the investigation.”
“Scearce stated that he had not seen Jones in a long time until he walked into Chief Scearce’s office about a loan. Scearce had only ever known Jones through playing softball together. Jones was said to have an alias name of “Yank”. Scearce stated Rhonda Taylor of BB&T Bank of Blue Ridge wanted someone to verify Jones identity. Scearce stated he had always known Jones as Rick Jones and also knew that Jones went by the name William Prowse. Jones was said to have offered Scearce $200 to verify who he was to Rhonda Taylor of BB&T. Scearce stated he did not take any money from Jones. Jones contacted Rhonda Taylor via telephone at the bank and Scearce told Taylor that he had played ball with Rick Jones for approximately ten years and knew him as Rick Jones. Because Jones was sitting in Scearce’s office, he was unable to tell Taylor about the additional information that Jones went by another name. Scearce stated he went out to his car and called Taylor back on his cell phone to tell her that Jones had also been using an alias of William Prowse and had been in jail. At that point Taylor made the comment that she did not know if she would give Jones the loan. Scearce stated he advised she could do whatever she needed to, but he was not vouching for Jones, simply stating who Jones was. Scearce also told Rhonda Taylor that Jones went by the name “Yank”.”
“When questioned further about the incident, Scearce stated he heard Rick Jones had been given loans by the bank and defaulted on the loans in the past. Scearce stated that information was hearsay. Special Agent Williams asked Scearce why the bank would not then recognize Jones if they had previously given him loans?”
“Scearce explained the reason he knew Rick Jones also by the name William Prowse was because of a vehicle stop that was conducted by one of the Blue Ridge police officers some years ago in which Jones presented himself as William Prowse. When Scearce called to find out the specifics of the stop, he learned that the situation was actually Rick Jones’ car was being worked on at an automotive place in Blue Ridge and Frank Johnson found a William Prowse ID in Rick Jones’ car.”
“Special Agent Williams confronted Scearce with the information that loan officer, Rhonda Taylor, provided. Taylor said Scearce verified that the individual receiving the loan was William Prowse, not Rick Jones. Scearce was extremely upset and stated he would take a polygraph test. Scearce swore that he never told Rhonda Taylor that Rick Jones was William Prowse. Scearce indicated that there may have been something that Taylor held against him from high school, but that the two had not had a problem otherwise as a motive for why she was saying that Scearce verified the individual receiving the loan was William Prowse.”
“Special Agent Williams then asked Scearce why he felt the need to call Taylor back and explain to her that Rick Jones also went by the name of William Prowse. Scearce just felt she needed to know the information. Special Agent Williams explained to Scearce that the loan was written in William Prowse’s name, so what he was telling law enforcement did not fit the story. Special Agent Williams tried to explain to Scearce that there would be absolutely no reason to bring up an alias from ten years previous if he did not have prior knowledge that the loan was being applied for in the name of William Prowse. In other words, if the scenario that Chief presented to Special Agent Williams was in fact true, he was the only individual that brought up the name William Prowse, which is the name that the loan was in. Scearce swore that he had not verified Rick Jones was actually William Prowse. Scearce said he told Rhonda Taylor that Rick Jones had an alias of William Prowse because Jones was “fishy” and he just needed to tell her that information. Continually Scearce said he did not think anyone knew Rick Jones as William Prowse.”
“At the conclusion of the interview with Scearce, he asked Agent Williams what would happen. Special Agent Williams advised Scearce that she would complete the investigation and provide the findings to the District Attorney’s office for a decision as to whether or not it would be presented to the grand jury. Scearce seemed to be very upset over the matter.”
“Once the interview with Scearce concluded, Special Agent Williams and Investigator Kenny Crook met with Cliff Stitcher of the Appalachian Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s office in Fannin County. Special Agent Williams and Investigator Crook relayed what had been told to them during the course of the interview with Johnny Scearce. Stitcher advised Williams and Crook that Scearce had come to him with letters from Rick Jones a while back and told him exactly the opposite. Scearce said he called the bank and proclaimed that the individual in his office was William Prowse. It should be noted that the individual who was arrested in relation to a crime with the loan in question is Rick Jones. Stitcher had concerns that Scearce told him exactly the opposite of what he had told investigators that day.”
“It should also be noted Special Agent Williams was advised the following day, May 6th, that Johnny Scearce had filed a formal complaint with BB&T Bank, whom his brother was president of, against Rhonda Taylor. Williams learned the information from District Attorney Joe Hendricks. District Attorney Hendricks was concerned because the incident happened in January of 2005, which allowed Scearce plenty of time to make a formal complaint against Taylor prior to investigators speaking with him. Hendricks felt that the act may possibly fall under influencing a witness.”
“On May 17th Special Agent Kimberly Williams interviewed Greg Newman. Investigator Newman advised Williams that recently, the bank investigators had talked with Johnny Scearce and Rhonda Taylor. Apparently, Scearce made comments that they cannot prove he called Rhonda Taylor and vouched for Rick Jones as William Prowse. Scearce supposedly made comments that it was his word against hers, and who were they going to believe, the Chief of Police. Scearce apparently volunteered to take a polygraph.”
“Tuesday May 17th special agent Kimberly Williams interviewed Rhonda Taylor, a bank loan officer for BB&T Bank. Taylor stated essentially the following:
On Wednesday May 11th 2015, BB&T corporate security arrived at the bank in Blue Ridge to talk to her and Johnny Scearce. Corporate security took it upon themselves to put the two face to face. The corporate security officer was Gabe Parks. Parks stated he wanted to put the two together and try to close the gap. Taylor advised special agent Williams she had learned through corporate security they had become involved and put the two face to face at the request of the District Attorney’s office. Also present during the interview was DA’s investigators Kenny Crook who said the DA’s office had not made such a request. Investigator Crook simply tried to find out if a complaint have been filed against Taylor.”
“Taylor stated that she felt very intimidated during the meeting with Scearce because he essentially called her a liar, and was very upset. According to Taylor, she had not felt scared or intimidated since, however, the two individuals being thrust together to talk about a different version of what happened was very uncomfortable. Taylor stated that recently, Mike Scearce, Johnny Scearce’s brother, had become the city executive BB&T Bank in Blue Ridge. Taylor actually told investigators that she was unaware that Johnny Scearce had lodged a complaint but thought that made sense based on the actions of BB&T corporate security. It was stated that neither she nor her husband had any problems with Scearce in high school or since.”
“During the meeting with corporate security, Scearce that stated that Rick Jones was a “maggot” and would not let Jones use his phone. He said he did not call and say that Rick Jones was William Prowse. Scearce said the individual he was vouching for was Rick Jones and also mentioned that Rick Jones had offered him $200 to vouch for him with Rhonda Taylor. Scearce stated that he did not need the money. Taylor then told Scearce that he was being loud and she did not appreciate him calling her a liar. Scearce said that he did call Rhonda Taylor back and that was when he told her the individual was also known as William Prowse.”
“Special agent Williams asked Taylor to remember what had originally been said during the loan application process. Taylor stated the individual now known as Rick Jones came to BB&T bank and claimed he was William Prowse. Jones filled out a hand-written application and provided all appropriate information, however, did not have a picture ID. The loan was for $3,800. Initially, the individual claiming to be Prowse stated that he lost his identification in the truck and went outside to look. When the individual came back, he said he must have left his identification at home. Taylor told Jones also known as Prowse that he could go to the State Patrol Post to get another identification. Jones stated that his wife would have to mail him a birth certificate so he could obtain his identification. Jones then left the bank and called back, with Chief of Police Johnny Scearce on the telephone. According to Taylor, Jones also known as Prowse called on the telephone but was with Scearce. Scearce was on the phone and verify that the individual in his office was William Prowse and also stated his nickname was “Yank”. Scearce then called back minutes later to tell Taylor that he was not co-signing on any loan with the individual. Taylor explained that she simply needed to verify the individual’s identity which was William Prowse. At that time, Scearce told Taylor that Prowse also goes by the name Jones, but his real identity was William Prowse.”
“Because of what occurred, Taylor indicated that she was written up in her personnel file and the President said that they are not going to reinvestigate the matter due to Corporate Security’s recent interest. According to Taylor, the bank’s policy on loans is each person has a set approval rate. They can singularly approve loans. The tellers and the loan officers are to know their customer, have proper identification, and an application. The particular loan in question was an unsecured loan and it met within the limits of what Taylor could approve without another individual’s approval.”
“According to Taylor, Scearce had come into the bank on April 25th to apply for a personal loan. The Chief had no problem and vocalized no problems with Taylor at that time.”
“On May 18th Special Agent Kimberly Williams and District Attorney’s Office investigator Kenny Crook interviewed Rick Jones.
Jones stated that he offered to pay Johnny Scearce $500 to vouch for him as William Prowse. Scearce told him he did not want the money, however, if he ever needed anything, he would let Jones know. Jones indicated that he was strung out or under the heavy influence of methamphetamine at the time, and if Scearce had been any friend at all, he would not have agreed to contact the bank in effort to help him facilitate a loan.
Jones stated that he went to Scearce’s office at the police department. Scearce spoke with Rhonda Taylor of BB&T and told her that William said he was having a hard time getting a loan with no identification. At no time did Jones hear Scearce make any statement about his true identity, which was Rick Jones, to Rhonda Taylor. Although Scearce did tell Taylor he knew Jones as “Yank”.”
“On Friday July 8th Special Agent Kimberly Williams contacted Gabriel Parks of BB&T corporate security. Parks handles investigations within the BB&T Banks. Williams asked Parks if he was involved in a confrontation between Rhonda Taylor and Johnny Scearce. Parks advised he conducted an interview between the two after receiving information that Scearce made allegations against Taylor for lying. According to Parks, Johnny Scearce called his brother after the GBI interview and advised him that Rhonda Taylor was lying about Scearce vouching for Rick Jones to BB&T Bank. The original investigation was completed by Parks, but when the new allegation against Taylor arose, Parks decided to interview Taylor again. Parks also thought it would be a good idea to have Scearce present.”
“Special agent Williams explained that the District Attorney’s office was very concerned, as was Williams that the bank personnel had been manipulated by Scearce into confronting Taylor. Williams advised Parks that the confrontation between Scearce and Taylor was intimidating at best. Parks admitted putting the two in a room together with probably not a good idea, but was a decision he made. Parks indicated Scearce ranted and yelled about Taylor lying and Taylor never lost her composure. Taylor even confronted Scearce about what he told her, which was that he, said the individual, was known as William Prowse. Taylor never wavered despite how mad Scearce got. Parks stated he used all of his interview techniques on Taylor and she consistently told the same version of what happened.”
“Parks thought that it was odd Scearce would go to such lengths to convince everyone that he did not vouch for Rick Jones as William Prowse. Scearce said that he told Taylor the individual was Rick Jones. Taylor stated what Scearce said was not true, Scearce actually said the individual was William Prowse. Taylor did not change her version at all. Scearce got loud and animated in the interview.”
“Scearce also volunteered he thought Taylor had problems with him because in the past she quoted him a very high interest rate on a small loan. Parks indicated the interest rate was not controlled by Taylor, and it usually was controlled by the applicant’s credit history. Parks was at a loss as to why Scearce would think Taylor had anything against him at all.”
“Parks admitted he would not have been involved the second time had it not been for Scearce’s complaint to his brother, Mike Scearce.”
“Monday July 11th Special Agent Kimberly Williams and District Attorney’s investigator Kenny Crook went to the Blue Ridge Police Department. Williams and investigator Crook were there to meet with Chief Johnny Scearce regarding a polygraph examination. Chief Scearce admitted he agreed to take the polygraph examination during the original interview regarding this case. Scearce indicated he was still willing to take a polygraph examination. Williams advised Scearce that she scheduled a test for him on Wednesday July 20th at the GBI office in Cleveland, Georgia.”
“Scearce asked if Rhonda Taylor would also be taking a polygraph examination. Williams advised that at that point she had only scheduled an examination for Scearce. But after Scearce took his test she would approach Taylor about taking a test if need arose. Scearce asked if he would fail the polygraph because he was nervous. Williams explained that the instrument utilized during the examination would measure his breathing rate, heartbeat, and other physiological reactions for indication of deception.”
“Scearce again told investigators that Rhonda Taylor was lying. Scearce indicated he told her on the telephone that the loan applicant was Rick Jones also known as “Yank” and said he called her back later to tell her he was also known as William Prowse. Scearce also told investigators he thought Rhonda Taylor had a problem with Scearce because she would not give him a loan for $3,000. Taylor insisted the loan amount had to be $3,500 and she quoted him an 18% interest rate. Scearce said the corporate security person said that was ridiculous when Scearce told him about the personal loan situation.”
“On July 20th Agent Pamela Rushton met with Johnny Scearce at the GBI Region 8 office located in Cleveland, White County, Georgia. The purpose of the meeting was to conduct a polygraph exam concerning allegations that Mr. Scearce had assisted Rick Jones in defrauding BB&T Bank. During the pre-test interview, Mr. Scearce stated essentially the following:
Mr. Scearce was located at the Blue Ridge Police Department in October 2004 when Rick Jones came into his office. It should be noted Mr. Scearce is the Chief of Police of Blue Ridge, Georgia. Mr. Scearce barely recognized Mr. Jones because it had been some time since he had seen him. Also Mr. Scearce stated it appeared Mr. Jones had lost a lot of weight. Mr. Jones stated he did not have an identification on him and the bank would not give him a loan. He asked Mr. Scearce to contact the bank and inform them of his identity. According to Mr. Scearce, Mr. Jones offered $200 to call the bank. Mr. Scearce stated he declined the money, however, he did contact Rhonda Taylor at the bank. He informed Ms. Taylor that he had “Yank” also known as Rick Jones sitting in his office. He disclosed to Ms. Taylor that he had known Mr. Jones for the past ten to fifteen years.”
“When Mr. Jones left, Mr. Scearce stated he re-contacted Ms. Taylor at the bank to inform her that Mr. Jones had stolen identity of a William Prowse. According to Mr. Scearce, Miss Taylor expressed concern whether she should give the loan to Mr. Jones. At this time Mr. Scearce stated he did not want to continue with the pre-test interview for the polygraph exam.”
“ Mr. Joe Hendricks, July 28th, 2005. Please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have any questions concerning this investigation. Sincerely Special Agent Kimberly Williams.”
“Thursday, January 13th 2005, Georgia Bureau of Investigations Region 8 Cleveland was requested to investigate allegations of party to the crime of fraud and identity theft by Blue Ridge Police Chief Johnny Scearce. Appalachian Judicial Circuit District Attorney Joe Hendricks made the request. Special Agent J.K. Crook responded to the request.”
Several questions remain unanswered as to why this did not go before the grand jury, why was Chief of Police Johnny Scearce not indicted and face trial for this alleged crime?
Usually when law enforcement officers are under investigation and refuse to take a polygraph examination, it is grounds for dismissal. Why didn’t the Blue Ridge City Council terminate Chief of Police Johnny Scearce in 2005 for refusing to take a lie detector test?
What happened to this investigation? Why did it end so abruptly? Why did District Attorney Joe Hendricks not prosecute? Let’s not forget the City of Blue Ridge is currently under investigation now and the next section of the report from Jarrard & Davis is due at the end of this month. Wonder how the Blue Ridge Police Department will make out in the investigation. Could the current DA reopen the case?
Tag Scanners, Open Records, and Blue Ridge’s attorney.