MOUNT AIRY, N.C., June 22, 2015 — Five years ago, William Neal Shelton was a successful entrepreneur. He had a nice home, a wife, a child, and another child on the way. Today, Shelton is unemployed, unemployable and divorced, and he hasn’t seen his children in three years.
Shelton’s ruin was fast and furious, which he says was aided by a vindictive attorney and a perfect storm of bad luck.
Shelton’s problems started in 2010. At that time, he had a successful business buying and selling high-end cars. In July 2010, checks on his business account began to bounce. Shelton’s wife, an accountant, examined the account and found 117 checks totaling about $100,000 made out to “cash.”
The checks appeared to have been forged.
Shelton also realized that some of his personal property was missing from his office.
Shelton said he and his wife identified Jody Inman, an employee who washed his cars, as the likely perpetrator. Some of the checks were signed with Inman’s name, and Inman and Shelton were the only employees with keys to the office where the checks were kept.
Shelton did not know that Inman had previously been convicted of embezzlement in 2005.
On July 24, 2010, Shelton went to the Mount Airy Police Department to file a formal complaint regarding the forged checks and theft of personal property. Police officials told Shelton he needed an affidavit from the bank for each forged check before he could file a complaint.
Shelton then took the suspected forged checks to his bank, Surrey Bank, to obtain the affidavits. Shelton remembers the bank manager proclaiming, “Oh my God. Those are clearly not your signatures. We have to turn this over to the operations department. An affidavit has to be done for each forged check and due to the large number of checks it will probably be Monday before they are done.”
However, Shelton said that instead of returning the affidavits promptly, the bank stalled. This delay resulted in more bounced checks for his business, which ultimately forced Shelton to close his business.
Shelton said over the next several months he tried with no success to get affidavits from Surrey Bank so he could file formal charges with the police department.
Shelton’s situation deteriorated after that incident.
On July 29, 2010, Shelton was arrested for the first time. He says that on that day, he arrived at the lot where he kept his car and found the car doors chained and padlocked together with one of his chains. Shelton began cutting the chain when two officers from the Mount Airy Police Department arrived. After a short conversation with Shelton, he was arrested for breaking and entering, larceny for the chain and possession of larceny tools.
In August 2010, Shelton said he went to First Citizen’s Bank, where he had a small business account, to inquire about a few checks totaling $175, which he also believed were forged. Shelton told Crime Magazine that First Citizen’s immediately identified the forged checks and provided affidavits for all forged checks the same day.
However, First Citizen’s said Shelton would have to pursue his own action to recoup the funds.
On August 5, 2010, Shelton was again arrested by the Mount Airy Police Department. Shelton said his arrest took place after the police department called and said he could pick up some of the items he had reported stolen.
Shelton said he then met a Mount Airy police officer and Jody Inman. Inman had some of the items Shelton had reported stolen and took them from his own car and placed them into Shelton’s car with the officer present.
Minutes later, the officer told Shelton to go into the police station, where Shelton remembers the officer saying, “Mr. Shelton, I am placing you under arrest for two charges of felony attempting to obtain property by false pretense and two charges of filing false reports as well as two charges for felony attempting to obtain property by false pretense from the DMV.”
Shelton said the officer had affidavits signed by Inman and others about the missing items and alleged forged checks in which Inman stated that Shelton had given him permission to remove the items and use the checks.
Over the next year, Shelton was charged with four more felonies: two felony writing worthless checks and two felony paying property under false pretenses.