Former Chief — Scammer or Victim?

MOUNTAIN TOP, Pa. -- He was a police chief in Luzerne County for 14 years, but now he's an accused felon, charged with helping an identity thief ship watches to Africa.

And he says his poor health contributed to what he calls a horrible error in judgment.

Gary Shupp, 67, spent a career helping keep people in White Haven safe, and under his watch, burglars and bank robbers were brought to justice.

He says he never thought he would someday be defending himself from criminal charges.

The former chief left the Luzerne County Courthouse with his legal status still up in the air. Shupp says his health and his good name are in tatters.

"I have a good reputation in the county and I am afraid that's spoiled," Shupp said.

Shupp tells Newswatch 16 he was caught up in an online relationship with someone who claimed to be a woman in the African nation of Ghana, sending her thousands over the last three years.

In January, police say someone using a stolen credit card number, went on Walmart's website, and then paid for three Apple watches to be picked up at the Wilkes-Barre Township Walmart.

Police looked at security camera video to see who picked up the three Apple watches. It didn't take long to identify that person. It was Gary Shupp.

"I picked them up and I sent them Federal Express to Ghana," he said. "My family tried to convince me (not to), but I wouldn't listen."

Shupp now concedes the woman in Ghana is a fraud but he's charged with access device fraud in the theft of the credit card.

Gary's son-in-law hopes the public realizes Shupp's lapses in judgment are tied to his health issues.

"Because of his experiences as a cop, he should have had some inkling that this wasn't right. However, because of the liver, I've seen him make some big mistakes," said Dave Van Auckenwest.

Like Shupp, the victim of the credit card theft also lives in Mountaintop.

A source close to the victim said she wants a felony conviction because she may not be able to get back the entire $1,200 lost in the ID theft and because of the ordeal she's been through in restoring her credit.

Shupp wishes she would change her mind.

"I didn't do it to her, I don't even know her," he said.

Gary Shupp is expected back in court in two weeks.

At that time, a judge could determine if there is enough evidence to send this former police chief to trial.

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