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Defendant says he gave Shelnutt $125K in parking lot

Columbus attorney Mark Shelnutt, facing a federal trial next month on money laundering charges, was given $125,000 in cash taped inside a cardboard box while in the parking lot of the Schomburg Road Publix, court filings allege.

The document, an exhibit filed Oct. 22 as part of a motion arguing why two charges against Shelnutt should be tossed out, summarizes a Feb. 28, 2008, interview with Shawn Bunkley — a defendant in a federal drug case linked to Shelnutt.

In it, federal agents state that Bunkley became involved in Torrance Hill’s drug organization in 2004. He would drive to Montgomery, Ala., and pick up cocaine and deliver large amounts of cash.

Bunkley was indicted along with several others who have been linked to Hill’s drug organization. Hill was once represented by Shelnutt. Hill pleaded guilty in 2006 to drug charges and was sentenced to 24 1/2 years in prison.

Shelnutt was accused in a May indictment of aiding and abetting a conspiracy to distribute cocaine, money laundering, witness tampering and attempted bribery. The indictment alleges a connection between Shelnutt and Hill.

According to the interview summary, Bunkley said Hill got Shelnutt to be his attorney after Bunkley was arrested in March 2006 in connection with Hill’s drug organization. After Bunkley was released, he was told to get drug money and bring it to Shelnutt.

“Bunkley said sometime during or after April 2006, he delivered $125,000 to Shelnutt in the parking lot of the Publics (sic) on Schomberg (sic) Road,” the report states. “Bunkley said he counted the money and taped it up in a cardboard box.”

The report states that Bunkley sold a race car of Hill’s for $90,000, though it wasn’t used for the payment. Instead, Bunkley said he had at least $80,000 in drug money in a bank account already. Bunkley had been taking small amounts of cash out of the account to add to money he had from selling cocaine to give to Shelnutt.

“Bunkley said that everyone knew the car sale was drug money,” the report states. “Bunkley said Shelnutt was always asking for more money. Shelnutt said he was trying to ‘get it squared away with Torrance.’ ”

Bunkley said that for some of the transactions, Shelnutt gave him a receipt. He didn’t get a receipt for the $125,000, the report states.

Bunkley has pleaded guilty to drug charges. His sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 10.

Shelnutt’s Oct. 22 motion, to which the exhibit is attached, focuses on two counts in his May indictment that allege he didn’t file a report of cash payments over $10,000 received in a trade or business, referred to as FINCEN Form 8300. In the motion, Shelnutt argues that those two counts should be dismissed because of the statute of limitations and asks U.S. District Court Judge Clay Land for permission to supplement earlier motions to dismiss the charges.

In the government’s response, Special Attorney to the Attorney General David Stewart argues that a five-year statute of limitations applies to those two charges.