In the Shadow of the Culpeper Indictment: Questions Emerge about Augusta Sheriff's Office
Written by: Sam Orlando
AUGUSTA COUNTY, VA - In the quiet town of Culpeper, Virginia, just some 70 miles southwest of Washington D.C., a maelstrom is brewing. Culpeper County Sheriff Scott Jenkins, the County's Chief Law Enforcement Officer and overseer of a staff of 70 and an $8 million budget, was recently indicted on multiple federal felonies related to crimes the federal government says he committed as the Sheriff. According to prosecutors, Jenkins has been accepting bribes since April 2019 to distribute auxiliary deputy sheriff credentials, allowing their bearers to carry concealed firearms across all 50 states, bypassing the need for permits.
The Justice Department maintains that Jenkins accepted cash bribes and campaign contributions amounting to at least $72,500 from a minimum of eight individuals, two of whom were undercover FBI agents. Once the bribes were paid, the individuals were appointed auxiliary deputy sheriffs, providing them with Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office badges and identification cards. Jenkins allegedly assured or caused others to assure the bribe payers that their newly acquired credentials gave them a nationwide carte blanche to carry concealed firearms.
This scandal does not end with Jenkins alone. Three other men from Virginia — Fredric Gumbinner, James Metcalf, and Rick Tariq Rahim — stand accused of paying bribes to the sheriff. Each man is faced with multiple charges, including conspiracy, honest-services mail and wire fraud, and federal programs bribery. If convicted, they could potentially face decades in prison. The charges they face, including honest-services mail and wire fraud, federal programs bribery, and conspiracy, carry maximum penalties of 20 years, 10 years, and 5 years respectively.
Interestingly, as Breaking Through News uncovered, this issue might extend beyond Culpeper County. Its investigation suggests the sale of auxiliary deputy positions may be more widespread. More than three dozen "auxiliary" deputy positions were reportedly offered by Augusta County Sheriff Donald Smith.
Trouble Brewing for Augusta County's Auxiliary Program?
Breaking Through News reached out to administrative Lt. Leslie Schneider of the Augusta County Sheriff's Office, asking about Augusta's auxiliary deputy program. Lt. Schneider reported the county has 13 auxiliary deputies at the Sheriff's Office. But there is a problem... Lt. Schneider's information to Breaking Through clearly conflicts with information Sheriff Donald Smith used when he sought insurance benefits for these deputies and the County, as evidenced by the minutes of the Augusta County Board of Supervisors on April 12, 2023. And both Schnieder and the Sheriff's conflicting information is further conflicted by a law enforcement source, speaking to Breaking Through on condition of anonymity.
On April 12, 2023, Sheriff Smith requested workers' compensation insurance for his auxiliary deputies from the Augusta County Board of Supervisors. At that time, he claimed to have 20 auxiliary deputies, nearly double the number confirmed by his administrative Lieutenant Leslie Schneider. Contrary to the sheriff's assertion, a law enforcement source cited by Breaking Through claimed that over 32 auxiliary deputies were working in his department.
Minutes from the April 12, 2023 meeting of the Augusta County Board of Supervisors:
Another alarming revelation is the conflicting reports about the training of these auxiliary deputies. While Lt. Schneider stated that 13 auxiliary deputies received "training level 2" state certifications, the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, indicated that the Augusta County Sheriff's Office had not reported any auxiliary deputies or their state training records. The DCJS, the state agency responsible for training law enforcement officers, has no record of any auxiliary deputies working for the Augusta County Sheriff. DCJS notes that a Sheriff, unlike a Police Chief, is a constitutional officer and can choose not to report his training records, and the agency is powerless to require them to report any information.
Relaxed Training and Accountability Standards The law enforcement source, however, confirmed that the training standards for volunteer deputies in Augusta County are extremely relaxed. Deputies are handed guns and allowed to patrol the county and make arrests without supervision, a fact confirmed by Breaking Through reporters who observed multiple auxiliary deputies driving deputy cars alone, wearing firearms, and engaging in police activity. This source also claims that Sheriff Smith, in a staff meeting with auxiliary deputies, told recruits that he could "get you off of anything, so long as you don't kill anybody." These shocking discoveries underscore the necessity of scrutinizing local law enforcement agencies and their auxiliary deputy programs. As the scandal involving Sheriff Scott Jenkins unfolds, it's apparent that a closer examination of such programs across Virginia is essential. The inconsistencies in the Augusta County Sheriff's Office's account of their auxiliary deputies program raises serious questions that demand answers. Trust in law enforcement is paramount; it must not be undermined by such grave allegations.