- Special Sections
- Public Notices
A lawsuit against the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office is proceeding through federal court after a receiving stolen goods charge against a local businessman was dropped.
Deputies arrested Andrew Gentile of Sunset Beach, who works as a private investigator in Ocean Isle Beach, Jan. 8. District Court Judge Jerry Jolly granted the state’s request to dismiss the charge June 28.
The lawsuit not only claims Gentile was wrongfully arrested, but also he and his wife, Christine, have been harassed by deputies.
Sheriff’s Capt. Mose Highsmith, who serves as the agency’s lawyer, said he could not comment on pending litigation.
Gentile, his wife, and his wife’s business, Redgator Pawn & Jewelry Shop in Ocean Isle Beach, filed the lawsuit in Brunswick County Superior Court on March 28, but it moved to federal court in Wilmington on April 25.
Gentile, a former Ocean Isle Beach assistant police chief, was accused of knowingly accepting stolen property to be sold at Redgator.
The arrest warrant issued Jan. 7 said he received a diamond cluster ring and two golden bands belonging to Regina Jenkins “having reasonable grounds to believe the property … was stolen.” Investigators also seized several items from the pawn shop following Gentile’s arrest after obtaining a search warrant Jan. 7.
The search warrant was obtained by then-Detective Mike Murray, who worked with Detective Ryan Newman on the case, and signed by Superior Court Clerk James MacCallum.
Gentile’s lawsuit accuses Murray and Newman of deliberately providing “inaccurate and misleading testimony” to secure both warrants.
Documents show the warrants were the result of Sept. 6, 2012, interviews with Jenkins’ son, Austin Jenkins, and his then-girlfriend Amber Holden at the Shallotte Police Department.
Holden was arrested Sept. 18, 2012, and charged with six counts of obtaining property by false pretenses in the case. She was convicted Dec. 13 of two felony counts of the crime.
Austin Jenkins was not charged.
Austin Jenkins and Holden told Murray and Newman about all the pawned items and where they got them, according to Murray’s search warrant.
According to the search warrant, in the Sept. 6, 2012, interview, Austin Jenkins said he stole several pieces of jewelry from his mother Aug. 22, 2012. Holden was there when he stole them, and he gave them to her to pawn.
Holden said later that day she and Austin Jenkins went into Redgator, where he showed the three rings to Andy Gentile and tried unsuccessfully to sell them, according to the search warrant. She said the two of them walked out, but she went back in by herself and successfully sold the rings to Andy Gentile for $100.
The interview recording does not corroborate her account as detailed in the search warrant. According to the recording, Newman did not ask Austin Jenkins or Holden if they entered the shop together Aug. 22, 2012, or if Andy Gentile was at the shop that day.
Written statements from Holden and Austin Jenkins on Sept. 6, 2012, do not name Redgator.
According to a recording of a Jan. 18 interview with a private investigator from Raleigh, Holden said she never told Newman she entered the store with Jenkins on Aug. 22, 2012.
She also said she never told Newman that Andy Gentile was the person who paid her for the stolen rings, and only one employee was working at Redgator at the time.
Records show Andy Gentile was working on an unrelated case with attorneys in New Hanover County on Aug. 22 when the stolen items were sold to Redgator.
Pawn tickets for the stolen rings show Christine Gentile’s signature, but according to the lawsuit, she did not know the items were stolen.
The state’s motion to continue the case of Andy Gentile’s arrest was denied and the charge was dropped June 28 because “there is insufficient evidence to warrant prosecution,” court records show.
Holden, Murray and Newman were not in court for the proceedings.
Assistant District Attorney Quintin McGee wrote he could not make the case without testimony from Holden, who was subpoenaed by Richard Hollar, Andy Gentile’s lawyer, to testify for the defense.
The Gentiles’ 48-page lawsuit names the sheriff’s office, Murray, Newman, Sheriff John Ingram, the District Attorney’s Office, Assistant District Attorney Meredith Everhart, Brunswick County and Western Surety Co. as defendants.
David Aldinolfi, special deputy attorney general with the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office, is representing Everhart and the District Attorney’s Office.
Raleigh lawyer James E. Hairston Jr. represents the Gentiles, who said their civil rights, including personal security and freedom from unlawful searches and seizures, were violated.
The lawsuit moved to federal court because it claims constitutional violations. No trial date has been set.
Andy Gentile founded Coastal Carolina Private Investigative Services in Ocean Isle Beach after retiring from the police force in 2008. During his investigations, he has been “harassed and impeded” by Everhart, who accused him of misrepresenting himself on two separate occasions in 2009 and 2010 and of trespassing in 2010, according to the suit.
The lawsuit accuses both the sheriff’s and District Attorney’s offices of trying “to discredit Mr. Gentile in all future investigative matters and pending testimony, resulting in potentially permanent damage to his credibility and reputation.”
It also claims that on or about Feb. 21, 2012, Gentile was stopped at the entrance to the Brunswick County Courthouse, “claiming that it had been ordered from the top that all private investigators be searched prior to coming into the courthouse. Mr. Gentile objected to the search, however, he and his effects, including the thousands of documents, exhibits and pieces of evidence prepared” for the trial “were searched thoroughly.” The suit alleges Gentile was searched and harassed by deputies for the next two days at the courthouse entrance.
On Feb. 23, 2012, Hollar requested an in-chambers conference with Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Ola M. Lewis and Everhart “to address the unreasonable searches, seizures, and harassment that Mr. Gentile had faced over the previous four days,” according to the suit. After that meeting, Gentile “was not searched, seized, or harassed upon entering the Brunswick County Courthouse.”
On Nov. 24, 2012, a deputy stopped Gentile at the Chubby Buddha, a local bar, claiming Gentile’s vehicle had taillights similar to one that tried to avoid a traffic checkpoint. Another deputy arrived and Gentile was accused of drinking, according to the suit. Gentile “reluctantly submitted” to a portable breath test. Results were not provided to him, but he was released that evening “without further action or investigation.”
With regard to Andy Gentile’s arrest Jan. 8, the lawsuit says investigators cordoned off the entire Redgator building and required Christine Gentile to remain on the premises, where she was “repeatedly subjected to questions and demands to produce information related to items in the Redgator” without pause for about eight hours.
“At no time during the search did the officers inform Mrs. Gentile that she was under arrest or being detained, however, Mrs. Gentile was not permitted to leave,” according to the suit.
It also claims deputies confiscated several items from the business, including a modified AR-15 rifle that had been brought there the day before to be sold on consignment; a .38-caliber revolver previously sold to Redgator; a BB gun; and all business records required by the Division of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Since Andy Gentile’s arrest and his wife’s detainment, “each has suffered considerable mental, emotional and physical distress,” according to the lawsuit, which also says Andy Gentile has problems with a wrist that was injured during his arrest and transfer to the Brunswick County Detention Facility.
The Gentiles seek compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $10,000 on each of seven counts outlined in the lawsuit.