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Press Release

Martinsburg man charged with fabricating death to desert from U.S. Coast Guard

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of West Virginia

WHEELING, WEST VIRGINIA – A federal grand jury has returned an indictment charging a West Virginia man with fabricating his own death in an effort to desert from the U.S. Coast Guard, United States Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld, II, announced.

Larry C. Shelby, 33, along with Karen Shelby, 33, and Jeffery John York, 32, of Martinsburg, are each charged with “Hoax Causing U.S. Coast Guard to Render Unnecessary Aid” and “Conspiracy to Violate Laws.”  The indictment alleges that Larry Shelby, a non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Coast Guard, conspired with his wife, Karen Shelby, and with York to desert from the Coast Guard in 2013. Larry Shelby allegedly abandoned his vehicle, wrote suicide notes, concealed his identity and isolated himself in a remote West Virginia cabin in an effort to falsify his own death.

The indictment further alleges that York and Karen Shelby represented to authorities that Larry Shelby was missing and that they were unaware his location or whether he was alive. These misrepresentations caused the U.S. Coast Guard to expend in excess of $100,000.00 in a search for Larry Shelby.  In February 2014, Larry Shelby allegedly returned from the remote cabin to reside in his Martinsburg residence in secret until June.

York and Karen Shelby, who also are charged with making a false statement, each face up to 16 years in federal prison.  Larry Shelby faces up to 11 years in prison.  Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed will be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendants.

An indictment is merely an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The matter was investigated by the Coast Guard Investigative Service. The Coast Guard’s search for Larry Shelby was supported by the Maryland State Police, the National Park Service, the Berkeley County, West Virginia Sheriff’s Office, the Harpers Ferry, West Virginia Police Department, the Martinsburg, West Virginia Police Department, Chesapeake Search & Rescue K-9, and Mid-Atlantic D.O.G.S, Inc.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul Camilletti and Andrew Williamson are prosecuting the case on behalf of the government.

Updated January 8, 2016