Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

June 28, 2013

Six defendants sentenced in motorcycle theft ring

Kenneth Hart
The Independent

LONDON — Six defendants who pleaded guilty in a conspiracy involving an interstate motorcycle theft ring have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from eight months to 10 years.

The six were sentenced earlier this month in U.S. District Court in London by Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove.

Robert Jason Chapman, 31, of Cleves, Ohio, received the lengthiest sentence of the six, 10 years. Van Tatenhove also recommended Chapman participate in the Bureau of Prisons' 500-hour drug treatment and education program while he is incarcerated.

Shon Fields, 22, of Cincinnati, was sentenced to 52 months. Christina Bannigan, 31, of Cleves, received 42 months. Robert W. “Trader Bob” Harris, 61, of Newport, and John C. Slusher, 68, of Pineville, were each sentenced to 37 months. Matthew Harris, 38, of Newport, Robert Harris' son, received an eight-month sentence.

All six defendants will be on supervised release for three years following their terms of incarceration. There is no parole in the federal system.

The six were among 10 defendants originally charged in the conspiracy, which authorities said resulted in a loss of approximately $1.7 million to the victims, including insurance companies.

Two other defendants, Richard “Dickie” Meade, 64, and Mark Justice, 52, both of Ashland, were convicted in March following a jury trial. Meade was found guilty of two counts of money-laundering and one count each of conspiracy and possessing a motor vehicle with an obscured identification number with intent to sell. He was acquitted of a third money-laundering count.

Justice  was convicted of money-laundering, conspiracy and possessing a vehicle with an obscured ID number with intent to sell.

George Ferguson, 53, of Ashland, who was tried with Meade and Justice, was found not guilty.

Meade and Justice are scheduled to be sentenced July 24 by Van Tatenhove. Meade's attorney, Michael Curtis of Ashland, has said he intends to appeal his client's conviction.

Margaret “Peggy” Harris, 60, wife of Robert Harris and mother of Matthew Harris, also was indicted in the conspiracy, but charges against her were dismissed.

According to court records, several of the defendants agreed to transfer the titles of motorcycles stolen from biker events in various states. Fields acted as a mechanic for the group, as well as an agent for TCB Customs, Chapman’s company, and also signed vehicle transaction documents from TCB Customs to “innocent purchasers.”

Chapman, Fields and others would remove parts displaying vehicle identification numbers, including frames, forks, engines and transmission cases, and replace them with aftermarket parts with new numbers, records state. The bikes would then be registered in other states, including Kentucky and West Virginia, as “kit bikes” or “assembled bikes” to conceal the fact they were stolen.

In September 2006, Chapman, Fields and Bannigan titled and sold for $10,000 a 2004 Harley-Davidson stolen from Daytona Beach, Fla., in Boyd County, according to records. The on Oct. 1 of that year, Fields, Meade and another man, Greg Chapman, allegedly obtained a new Kentucky title for a Thunder Mountain custom motorcycle stolen from Myrtle Beach, S.C., and sold it through Meade’s business, Hertz Car Sales, for $15,000.

Greg Chapman was killed March 7 2007, in a shooting at a home Ky. 5 that was originally thought to have occurred during a home invasion, but turned out to be drug-related.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or

(606) 326-2654.