By MICHELLE FRIEDRICH
SEMO News Service
DONIPHAN, Mo. -- Six Ripley County residents were charged this week for their alleged roles in a scheme involving the falsification of affidavits for the obtaining of concealed weapons certification.
Thomas "Brian" Newman was charged with six Class C felonies of forgery by Ripley County Prosecuting Attorney Christopher Miller, who also charged Tyler D. Watkins with 10 Class C felonies of forgery.
In addition, Miller charged Randy S. Hart, his wife, Cindy Hart, and his brother, Bryan L. Hart, all of Fairdealing, Mo., and Zachary Lee Spencer of Doniphan with the Class B misdemeanor of making a false declaration.
Newman is accused of signing and fraudulently issuing certificates of firearms safety training course to Randy Hart and Cindy Hart on Oct. 5, to Bryan Hart on Feb. 2, 2012, and to Brian Byrd and Kassie Byrd on July 2.
Watkins is accused of fraudulently providing certificates of firearms safety training course, allegedly signed by Newman, to Donny Young, Kady Young and John Odum on Sept. 28, to Elizabeth Mahan on Jan. 11, to Ray Stratton on Dec. 26, to Donald Johnson on Jan. 3, to Angela Anderson and Mona Thomas on Dec. 31, to Donald Thomas on Dec. 28 and to Tanya Dale on Dec. 26.
The Harts and Spencer are accused of misleading the Ripley County sheriff by providing the fraudulent certificates, which indicated they had completed firearms safety training, in their applications for a permit to carry a concealed firearm.
The charges stem from an investigation by the Missouri State Highway Patrol and its Division of Drug and Crime Control.
On Jan. 23, according to Cpl. Jeff Johnson's probable cause statement, he, Sgt. Darrin Tackett and Trooper James Wilson reportedly received information concerning Newman and Watkins "providing affidavits for several individuals to obtain a concealed weapons certification without attending the necessary training as required by Missouri law."
Newman, who at that time was a firearms instructor and whose name was listed as the instructor on the affidavits, was interviewed at the Ripley County Sheriff's Department, Johnson said.
"During the course of the interview, Mr. Newman said he had given a firearms class to a law enforcement training class at Three Rivers Community College, where Watkins was attending training," Johnson said.
Newman, he said, reported giving a blank concealed carry certification form to Watkins "without requiring him to attend his concealed carry class because he knew Watkins had been trained in a law enforcement capacity.
"Mr. Newman stated he had given Watkins permission to sell copies of the affidavit to two or three people back in September of 2012."
Johnson said Newman reported receiving $50 per person for the affidavits.
"Mr. Newman stated he did not require the subjects to attend a concealed carry class or require them to participate in a practical exercise to demonstrate proficiency with handling a firearm," Johnson said. "(He) said this began by Mr. Watkins contacting him about getting some of his co-workers ... concealed carry permits."
Johnson said Newman also reported Watkins allegedly gave some blank forms to another man to sell.
Watkins also was interviewed Jan. 23 about his alleged involvement in selling affidavits to individuals to fraudulently obtain concealed carry permits.
After being told of his rights, Johnson said, Watkins initially denied selling any affidavits, but "later admitted (he) acted as a broker putting an individual ... in touch with Brian Newman to purchase a concealed carry permit."
Watkins, he said, also reported two of his co-workers had allegedly purchased the affidavits.
"Mr. Watkins further described this transaction as carrying the affidavit from Mr. Newman's truck to the aforementioned persons," Johnson said.
Watkins, Johnson said, was confronted about providing the affidavit to the man Newman identified.
"Mr. Watkins said he had never sold an affidavit to (that man), but had spoke to (the man's) father and uncle about purchasing as affidavit," Johnson said. "Mr. Watkins indicated (that man) had put him in touch with Angela Anderson, Don and Mona Thomas, who live in Oxly, Mo.
"Mr. Watkins said he sold concealed carry affidavits to these individuals."
Johnson said Watkins later admitted to providing the man, identified by Newman, with an affidavit.
"Mr. Watkins had previously said Mr. Newman was present each time he provided someone with an affidavit, but later said Mr. Newman was not present when he sold an affidavit to (the man)."
Watkins told officers Newman, who was going to Tunica, Miss., contacted him at one point about needing to "sell as many affidavits as he could for extra money. Mr. Watkins then said he was involved in selling three affidavits to (his co-workers) and one more to (the man Newman identified).
"When questioned about who filled the form out, Mr. Watkins said he did and further denied he had provided any blank forms to (the man Newman identified)."
Watkins told officers if that man had any blank forms, "he stole them out of Mr. Watkins' truck," Johnson said. "(He) said he may have sold (the man) two affidavits," and had two or three more blank ones in his vehicle at the time of the meeting.
Watkins reported throwing the remaining blank forms in the trash.
As part of the investigation, Johnson said, Tackett contacted Newman's business partner, who provided a receipt book, which listed the individuals who actually had attended training.
Several persons interviewed, Johnson said, reported Watkins allegedly had contacted them and told them not to speak to investigators.
Nine persons who allegedly purchased or were given affidavits from Newman were interviewed and admitted their involvement, Johnson said. Another 12, he said, allegedly purchased affidavits from Watkins.
According to Wilson's probable cause affidavits, the Harts were interviewed Jan. 31 by Trooper David Patton.
"(Bryant) Hart began the interview by admitting he had worked the deal with Brian Newman to get his brother's and sister-in-law's (Randy and Cindy Hart) CCW," Wilson said. "He said his brother gave him the money to take to Newman to get the CCW.
"He said he gave the money to Newman, received the paperwork and took it to his brother."
Bryan Hart, Wilson said, also admitted receiving a CCW from Newman without taking the class.
"(Bryan) Hart said he was in the sheriff's academy at the time he received his CCW," Wilson said. " ... He approached Newman (who was his instructor) about getting his CCW after they had finished the firearms class."
Bryan Hart, Wilson said, reported paying Newman $50 and later receiving the paperwork for the CCW without taking the course.
"(Bryan) Hart said he knew it was wrong for his brother and sister-in-law to receive their CCW without taking the course, but thought since he had already been through the firearms course under Newman, his would be legal," Wilson said.
A records check at the Ripley County Sheriff's Department indicated Bryan Hart signed an application for a permit to carry a concealed weapon on Feb. 2, 2012, "in which he stated he had completed the requirements when in fact he admitted he had not done so."
Randy Hart, Wilson said, initially told Patton he had received his CCW by taking a course under Newman; however, later admitted "he did receive his CCW" from Newman, but his brother "actually brought the paperwork to him."
Randy Hart learned Newman was an instructor from his brother, who was supposed to let him know when a class would be held, Wilson said.
"He said his brother later contacted him, told him all he would have to do was pay for the course, not actually take the class," Wilson said.
Randy Hart reported having given $75 apiece for he and his wife to his brother, who "later brought him the paperwork," said Wilson. "Hart concluded the interview by saying he knew it was wrong to receive his CCW in this manner, but thought there would be a class someday."
Sheriff's department records show Randy Hart and his wife signed applications for a CCW permit on Oct. 5.
On Feb. 2, Wilson said, he spoke by telephone with Spencer, who reported attending a class Newman had given.
Spencer, Wilson said, couldn't tell him who was in the class with him, how long the class lasted or how many rounds of ammunition he fired.
During the call, Wilson said, he told Spencer that Newman had reported Spencer had not attended a concealed carry class and accused him of buying the certification, like several other people had done.
"Mr. Spencer became agitated and stated it sounded like I had enough information without involving him," Wilson said. "(He) refused to answer any further questions and hung up on me."
Sheriff's department records show Spencer applied for a CCW permit on Oct. 3.
All six were issued summons to appear in court at 9 a.m. May 14 before Associate Circuit Judge John Bloodworth for arraignment in their cases.