Commissioner: Money for junk cars was given to sheriff’s office

Published 5:23 pm Monday, July 8, 2013

Marengo County Commissioner Freddie Armstead Sr. says money for junk cars taken from the county shop was given to the sheriff’s office.

Armstead and his son, Freddie Armstead Jr., were arrested in April on five counts of theft in connection with the cars being taken from the lot in 2011.

A Marengo County grand jury decided last month not to take the case to trial.

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“The grand jury has spoken,” Armstead said. “I’m glad it’s over, and I want to continue serving the people of Marengo County.”

In a press release from the law firm of Gibbs & Sellers, Armstead said he had a $2,292 check for the cars mailed to Sheriff Richard Bates after they were weighed. The check was made payable to the Marengo County Sheriff’s Department, according to the release.

Also included was a copy of an envelope sent to “Marengo County Sheriff Dept” from Don and Rons Trucking that was postmarked April 4, 2011.

According to Armstead, the cars had been at the shop since 1996, seized during the tenure of Sheriff Roger Davis, and were in complete disrepair. One of the vehicles was 40 years old and had trees growing through the windows and trunk, the release said.

The cars were sold to Ron Miller, who owns a salvage yard in Uniontown, and he wrote the check to the sheriff’s department, which has never been cashed, according to the release.

Included in the information sent from Gibbs & Sellers was a copy of Superior Bank check from Donald Miller made payable to the Marengo County’s Sheriff’s Department for $2,292. The check was dated April 2, 2011, for “junk vehicles.”

Bates said Armstead was not authorized to sell the vehicles, and he did not receive the check until after he had started investigating the car’s removal.

“After we started investigating, and he admitted to me in my office that he took the cars to sell, I got the check,” Bates said. “It was never cashed because it was evidence that he took the cars. He was never authorized to take the cars because those cases are still open. I got the check a week after he told me he got the cars.”

He added that he didn’t know what would happen if the cases came back around and the people wanted their cars back.

According to the release, Armstead said neither he nor his son received any money from the sale of the vehicles and they feel vindicated after the grand jury returned a no bill on the charges.

The release reads in part, “Commissioner Armstead had these vehicles sold and the money sent to the sheriff’s department because of financial problems Sheriff Bates claimed his office was having. At no time did Commissioner Armstead or his son benefit from the sale of these automobiles.”

“I have no hard feelings for the sheriff or his department,” Armstead said. “They were doing their job, even though I feel it wasn’t warranted.”