A former Madison County convenience store owner has been sentenced to 10 years probation on fraud charges related to the 2012 county sheriff’s race. Mohammad Shafiq of Hull was also sentenced this week in Madison County Superior Court by Judge Chris Phelps to fines totaling $6,750 for two counts of illegal acts regarding election documents, two counts of subornation of perjury or false swearing and three counts of tampering with evidence. The fines for the crimes could have totaled up to $100,000
Northern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Parks White said a plea deal was reached with Shafiq for a 10-year probated sentence in exchange for a waiver of first-offender status.
“He is a convicted felon now,” noted White, who added that he was surprised the fines levied by the judge weren’t more.
Shafiq faced charges for falsifying voter registration cards and then later providing false documentation to try to exonerate himself from the crime.
In 2012, county probate judge Cody Cross, whose duties in 2012 included serving as county election superintendent, issued arrest warrants for Shafiq during the 2012 sheriff’s campaign. According to Cross, Shafiq altered information on two voter registration cards that weren’t his own. Shafiq, the former owner of Kwik-Mart at the corner of Hwy. 29 and Glenn Carrie Road, was an outspoken supporter of Sheriff Kip Thomas and an opponent of challenger Clayton Lowe. Shafiq filed a harassment charge against Lowe with the U.S. Justice Department during the 2012 race, an allegation Lowe staunchly denied.
White said Shafiq dropped off numerous voter registration cards at the county elections office in 2012. But only two were proven fraudulent.
Shafiq later presented affidavits to the court signed by Bennie and Margaret Pierce that purported to show that the couple rented a Bedford Road residence from Shafiq and that their voter registration cards were not fraudulent, as the charges against Shafiq indicated.
“So like we do in any case in which we receive affidavits that propose to exonerate someone, we investigate,” said White. “And I investigated first by going to the location and questioning the neighbors at the address that Mr. Shafiq said they were living. They said they had never seen an elderly white couple living in the residence.
They said they had seen a man on Middle Eastern descent, who was a relation of Mr. Shafiq.”
White said that he acquired bank records for Mrs. Pierce, which showed that the checks supposedly for rent were back-dated and that there were corresponding cash deposits at the same time for the same amounts. The DA said there were no payments made to Jackson EMC as the affidavit showed. White also said the property in question was not actually owned by Shafiq until July 15 and that Shafiq dropped the Pierce’s registration cards off with the county elections office on July 2.
“So he couldn’t have leased it to someone,” said White.
After the affidavits submitted by Shafiq were shown to include fraudulent information, additional charges of subornation of perjury and tampering with evidence were added to Shafiq’s two counts of illegal acts regarding election documents. Both Mr. and Mrs. Pierce were also charged with false swearing and tampering with evidence.
But White said the charges against the Pierces will be dropped. He said the Pierces were “unwilling and reluctant accessories.”
“They (the Pierces) signed the affidavits, but it appears they were told by Mr. Shafiq that everyone would be in trouble if they didn’t sign off on the affidavits and write these checks to him,” said White. “So having initially done nothing wrong, they were essentially told that everyone was going to jail if they didn’t do what Mr. Shafiq needed.”