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Appalachia gambling suspects to be arraigned Monday

January 19th, 2007 9:21 pm by STEPHEN IGO



WISE - Just as the election fraud scandal that rocked the Wise County town of Appalachia for practically all of last year is about to simmer down, the semi-related gambling and vice scandal is about to heat up.


During last year's investigation into election fraud involving the 2004 town elections that brought down the town mayor, a councilman, the Parks and Recreation director and his wife, also a town employee, and a police officer - along with nine other of the original group of 14 defendants - law enforcement officers uncovered a thriving underground gambling culture that indicated Appalachia's night life was hardly as dead as things appeared.


As Chief Special Prosecutor Tim McAfee characterized the situation last year, every time investigators turned over a rock in Appalachia, they found another rock to turn over.


A horde of Virginia State Police and Wise County Sheriff's Department investigators swarmed into the town in May 2006 with gambling dens in mind, following up an equally high-profile townwide raid and roundup of election fraud suspects in February.


During the May raid, three buildings in the heart of the downtown area were raided and seized, along with an estimated $500,000 in cash - collected mostly from private bank accounts - and gambling paraphernalia.


Special Prosecutor Lee Harold of Wythe County is heading up the gambling investigation. On Tuesday, his staff presented the Wise County grand jury with evidence that led to the indictments of eight Appalachia residents. The investigation that might result in charges against more individuals continues.


Named in the indictment and scheduled to be arraigned beginning at 9 a.m. on Monday in Wise County Circuit Court are:


•Hubert Lee Summers, 59, 206 Maple St., charged with one count of racketeering; one count of operating an illegal gambling operation; two counts of conducting a financial transaction using proceeds from a criminal activity; one count of being the owner, tenant or other occupant allowing gambling to occur; and 20 counts of possession of a gambling device.


•Billy Wayne Womble, 38, 203 Maple St., one count of operating a continuous gambling operation, and 20 counts of possession of a gambling device.


•Larry Ray Thomas, 56, 5035 Stonega Road., one count of operating a gambling joint, and one count of being an accessory to gambling activities.


•Bobby Ray Bolling, 69, 5 West 14th St., one count of operating a gambling concern, and one count of being an accessory to gambling.


•Danny Lester Lawson Jr., 24, 1911 Derby Road, one count of operating a gambling operation.


•Ronnie Dale Henry, 46, 318 Main St., one count of operating an illegal gambling operation, and one count of being the accessory to gambling activities.


•James Richard Taylor, 69, 318 Main St., one count of racketeering; two counts of conducting a financial transaction using proceeds from a felonious activity; one count of being the operator of a continuous illegal gambling operation; one count of being the owner, tenant or other occupant allowing gambling; and 20 counts of possession of a gambling device.


•Andrew Jackson Taylor, 67, 142 Ridge Ave., identical charges to those filed against his brother above, James Richard Taylor.


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