Kanawha prosecutor seeks to keep cash at center of lawsuit

By Lawrence Smith | Aug 31, 2009


CHARLESTON - Though no criminals charges have been filed, authorities have initiated proceedings to keep the nearly $8,000 seized in May from a New Jersey man's hotel room in South Charleston alleging the money was used to facilitate the trafficking of illegal drugs.

The Kanawha County Prosecutor's Office on Aug. 6 began forfeiture proceedings against John W. Bradberry Jr. and Shelli Haddad to retain the $7,878 police seized from them on May 11. In its petition for forfeiture, the prosecutor's office alleges Bradberry and Haddad are part of a drug ring, and the money police confiscated that night was used to purchase marijuana, and prescription drugs.

However, records show prosecutors have yet to press criminal charges against Bradberry, and charges that were filed against Haddad have since been dropped.

Suspicious activity

The forfeiture petition was filed 20 days after Bradberry filed a lawsuit against the city of South Charleston alleging an unknown number of South Charleston police officers conducted a "warrantless and illegal search" of his room at the Microtel Inn on Second Avenue. According to his complaint, Bradberry alleges the officers entered his room without probable cause, and confiscated over $7,000 he had despite finding no drugs in his possession.

However, the forfeiture petition, which was filed by Assistant Prosecutor Reagan E. Whitmyer, contends SCPD officers, who were working in conjunction with the Metropolitan Drug Enforcement Network, had sufficient cause to suspect Bradberry and Haddad of engaging in criminal activity. In fact, she avers that Bradberry and Haddad gave police their consent to search the hotel room.

According to Whitmyer, SCPD detectives Allen and Hackney along with patrolmen Holly and Lindell were called to the Microtel on May 11 around 10 a.m. They were acting on a tip from the hotel's co-manager that, after renting a room with cash the night before, Haddad drove away, and a black man later entered it from the side door.

Upon arriving at the hotel to conduct a "knock and talk," Whitmyer alleges the officers observed Haddad knocking on the door where Bradberry was staying. After identifying himself as a police officer, Allen was permitted by Bradberry and Haddad to enter the room to question them about suspected illegal activity.

Later, Haddad was taken into the hallway and interviewed separately from Bradberry. Eventually, Bradberry consented to a search of the hotel room while Haddad consented to a search of her purse and car.

Though a search of the room using a drug-sniffing dog found nothing, Whitmyer alleges the search of Haddad 's purse and car revealed 10.5 Adderall pills plus $768, and a bag containing 9.9 grams of suspected marijuana, respectfully. After a field test confirmed the substance in the bag was marijuana, Haddad was placed under arrest.

Before Haddad was taken away for booking, Allen asked Bradberry to tell him "the real story" of how he came to rent the room since both his and Haddad 's stories significantly differed. Bradberry replied he already told Allen once, and he wasn't going to tell him again.

Allen, Whitmyer alleges, then asked Bradberry where he'd gotten $7,000 in which Bradberry replied from the refinancing of his house. When Allen asked him if he normally carried large amount of cash, Bradberry declined to answer.

After an attempt by Bradberry to prove he made a large withdraw from his bank by playing a recording from its automated system proved unpersuasive, Allen informed Bradberry he was seizing the cash Bradberry had in his possession since it was believed to be used in the sale of drugs. Prior to departing, Allen gave Bradberry a property receipt, and a telephone number for the evidence custodian at MDENT.

The total amount of cash seized from Bradberry was later determined to be $7,110, Whitmyer alleges.

High-level drug dealer

According to court records, Haddad , 47, a South Charleston resident, was charged with one count each of possession with intent to deliver marijuana, and Adderall. However, the charges were dismissed on May 20 at the request of the prosecutor's office.

Though Bradberry, 39, a Newark, New Jersey resident, has yet to be charged with any crime in connection with the seizure of his cash, Whitmyer alleges he is "second-in-command" of a group trafficking drugs between New Jersey and Charleston.

According to Whitmyer, Detective Van Armstrong, MDENT's evidence custodian, learned from Special Agent Robert Negro of the Drug Enforcement Agency that a confidential informant told him in August 2006 that Bradberry had ties to Antwone White who reportedly was arrested on drug-related charges in June 2006. After buying cocaine regularly from White starting in February 2003, the informant alleges she met a black male from New Jersey named Shawki Hill, and his right-hand man named "Nook" whom the informant identified as Bradberry.

Apparently, White was one of Shawki Hill's reliable customers as the informant reportedly said Hill told her in "Nook's" presence he was sad to see White get arrested since Hill had been supplying him cocaine for over 10 years. After White's arrest, "Nook" moved the operation out of the hotels they were using and into a residence in Nitro his then-girlfriend was renting.

About a week prior to White's arrest, the informant claims she took a trip to New Jersey with Hill and "Nook." After returning to Charleston, they went to Super 8 Motel where Hill was seen with $3 - $4,000.

According to the informant, Hill said "Nook" gave a woman named "Shell" $10,000 for safekeeping. Though the informant claims to have seen "Shell" in the motel room with Hill, no other details are provided about her in the forfeiture petition.

Records show prior on Sept. 24, 2007, Bradberry was arrested by Kanawha County Sheriff's deputies as part of a prostitution sting in Jefferson. In addition to solicitation, Bradberry was charged with one count each of possession of controlled substance, a misdemeanor, and possession with intent to deliver, a felony, after nine bindles of heroin were found in his pocket.

On Nov. 7, the delivery charge was dropped after Bradberry agreed to plead guilty to the solicitation and possession charges. Along with a year's probation, and a 90-day suspended sentence, Bradberry was fined $160.50, in which he had 180 days to pay, and agreed to forfeit the $3,700 cash he had when he was arrested.

Records show following his arrest, Haddad posted Bradberry's $2,500 bond.

No 'legitimate source'

In the petition, Whitmyer alleges that neither Bradberry nor Haddad have provided a "legitimate source" for the cash police confiscated from them on May 11. Since MDENT believe there to be a "substantial connection" to the money, and its use in drug trafficking, Whitmyer is asking that the court declare that it become the permanent property of the state of West Virginia.

Though he had not had time to thoroughly read Whitmyer's petition, Mike Clifford, Bradberry's attorney, said he perused it before heading for a trip to England. Nevertheless, he called the allegations raised in it "a joke," and will respond to them in "due course."

"That is outrageous," Clifford said. "They had no business going into his room. My position is going to be they're going to have to return the money."

The case is assigned to Judge Louis H. "Duke" Bloom.

Kanawha Circuit Court, Case No. 09-C-1447

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