Guilty pleas in tri-state chop shop ring; trial set for remaining defendants

Publish Date: 
Feb 4, 2013

LONDON, Ky. - Three of the defendants in a federal case involving an alleged multistate motorcycle theft and money-laundering ring have agreed to plead guilty.

Robert Jason Chapman, 31, of Cleves, Ohio, on Friday filed a motion in U.S. District Court in London to be re-arraigned to change his plea from not guilty to guilty, according to the Ashland, Kent., Daily Independent.

Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove scheduled the proceeding for Feb. 7.

 Earlier this month, two of the other 10 defendants, Christina Bannigan, 31, of Cleves, Ohio, and Shon Fields, 33, of Cincinnati, formally entered their guilty pleas. Each pleaded guilty to a single count of money-laundering. Van Tatenhove scheduled their sentencings for May 23.

Trial is scheduled for Feb. 19 for the remaining defendants: Mark Justice, 52, Richard “Dickie” Meade, 64, and George Ferguson, 53, all of Ashland; John C. Slusher, 58, of Pineville; and Robert “Trader Bob” Harris, 61, Margaret “Peggy” Harris, 60, and Matthew Harris, 38, all of Newport.

The government alleges the defendants participated in a money-laundering conspiracy related to the interstate shipment of stolen motorcycles. Some of the defendants also are charged with money laundering and possessing stolen vehicle parts with the intent to sell them. Additionally, Robert Harris is charged with making false statements to a federal law enforcement agency and Slusher and Chapman are charged with threatening witnesses to try to keep them from testifying before a federal grand jury.

According to Fields’ and Banningan’s plea areements, several of the defendants agreed to transfer the titles of motorcycles that had been stolen from rallies and events in various states, including Florida, South Carolina and South Dakota. Fields acted as a mechanic for the group, as well as an agent for TCB Customs, Chapman’s company, and also signed vehicle transaction documents from TCB Customs to “innocent” buyers.

Posted by Holly Wagner