On Friday, October 28, 2016, Wesley Shane Rathel, the sheriff of Miller County, was arrested by the FBI for selling stolen firearms.
According to the complaint filed with the Court, Phillip Weston Jones was arrested by the Miller County Sheriff’s Office in February of 2016 and charged with aggravated assault, battery and reckless conduct. As a condition of his bond, Jones was not to have any contact with members of his family or possess a firearm.
In April, Jones and his wife (a Colquitt Police Department Officer) purchased a protective vest for the Colquitt Police Department’s K-9 unit. A photo of Jones, with his wife, appeared in the local newspaper. Because Jones was seen with his wife, a family member, his bond for the February arrest was revoked. During the bond revocation hearing, Jones was instructed to give his firearms to the Miller County Sheriff’s Office.
According to the complaint, a few days after the bond revocation hearing, Jones made contact with Shane Rathel, the Miller County Sheriff, and asked what he should do with his firearms. Rathel advised him to bring the weapons to his house. Jones turned over three firearms: a black AR-15, a black 12 gauge shotgun, and a .38 caliber revolver. Jones did not receive a receipt or any paperwork for the weapons.
On September 15, 2016, Jones was doing some electrical work for the Afternoon Pawn Shop in Donalsonville when he noticed two guns that looked like those he had turned over to Rathel, about 4 months prior. Taking note of the serial numbers, Jones compared them to the numbers on his guns (which he had noted before surrendering them) and realized they were a match. At this point, the GBI was notified.
During the course of the investigation, Agent Hank Day with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation interviewed the owner of the Afternoon Pawn Shop, Brad Bell. Bell stated that Rathel made contact with him at the Subway in Colquitt and asked if he would pawn two guns for him. Bell said he would and, an hour later, Rathel returned to the restaurant with a Black AR-15 and a black 12 gauge shotgun. Bell stated that he gave Rathel $600 for the two guns and encouraged him to get a pawn ticket for the transaction. Rathel was to retrieve the guns and repay within 30 days.
On September 24, Agent Day interviewed Rodney Jackson, who stated that he purchased a .38 caliber revolver from Rathel for $200. According to the complaint, Jackson stated that he met Rathel at his office at the Miller County Sheriff’s Office and that “Rathel advised that the revolver was his gun and he wanted to sell it for $200.” Jackson paid $200 cash for the gun with the understanding that Rathel would purchase it back from him the following Friday. The serial number of the .38 matched the serial number provided by Jones.
From the Complaint:
“Based on the above facts and circumstances, Affiant submits that there is probable cause to believe that on or about July 1, 2016 and September 2, 2016, Wesley Shane Rathel stole the above described firearms and then bartered, sold, and disposed of said firearms, knowing the same to be stolen, in violation of Title 18 United States Code, Section 922 (j).”
Rathel has been appointed counsel by the Court and was released on bond totaling $10,000. As a condition of his bond, he surrendered his passport and is not allowed to possess a firearm, destructive device, or other weapon.
*Information obtained for this article is directly from the Public Record of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia.