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Wednesday, 31 July 2013 13:09

Man’s quest to flee town limits ends in charges

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A candidate for Maggie Valley alderman was indicted this month on eight felony charges, including forgery. 

The July 19 indictment alleges that Joe Maniscalco forged documents and knowingly tried to pass them off as valid records in an attempt to get out of paying town property taxes.

 

Specifically, Maniscalco presented documents to the county register of deeds office claiming his property was no longer within the town limits and asking the county’s land records be updated accordingly, which would in turn expunge him from the town’s tax rolls and wipe out his $2,450 town tax bill. However, Maniscalco’s property is in fact in the town limits — even though he wishes it wasn’t — and the documents he presented were allegedly fabricated.

One of the documents Maniscalco passed was an alleged resolution from the town approving Maniscalco’s property to be removed from the town limits. But the town never passed such a resolution nor has such a document in its files.

Maniscalco claims he was given the fake documents and is the victim of a set up by town officials. 

“They say that I made up a resolution, that I forged this and forged that,” Maniscalco said. “The truth is that I got it from (Town Manager) Tim Barth.”

However, Barth said no such thing happened.

“I did not hand him a resolution,” Barth said. “I explained the other day that there was no resolution.”

Maniscalco is charged with five counts of common law uttering, two counts of forgery and one count of obtaining property under false pretenses, since his end goals was to get out of paying property taxes. Each of the eight felony charges carries a maximum of 12 months in prison.

Following the indictment, Maniscalco was arrested and then released on $50,000 bond. The original bond was $130,000, but it was reduced on the condition that Maniscalco have no contact with any Maggie Valley town employees and refrain from being on town hall property. Town employees had previously complained of being harassed and threatened by him.

Maniscalco has been at odds with the town since 2009, when his gated home on three acres was annexed into the town limits. It was one of 130 properties included in the large-scale annexation.

However, he has repeatedly argued that his home was unfairly annexed and that he doesn’t receive adequate town services in exchange for the property taxes he pays.

Only last February, after a shift in the majority leadership on the town board, did Maniscalco make any headway. Three board members sided with him and voted in favor of de-annexing him. Mayor Ron DeSimone and Alderwoman Saralyn Price voted against it.

But the de-annexation had to be approved in Raleigh before it became official. The town sent a letter to state representatives in March 2012 asking them to introduce the necessary legislation to the General Assembly. The town sent another letter along the same lines to state officials in August 2012.

The 3-2 town board vote supporting Maniscalco’s de-annexation merely resulted in a letter being sent to Raleigh. The town never passed a resolution, despite Maniscalco producing one.

“It’s not normal that a resolution would be done,” DeSimone said.

However, no such bill was ever introduced, so Maniscalco’s property still remains in Maggie Valley’s town limits.

Maniscalco decided to take matters into his own hands earlier this year, according to a Waynesville Police Department investigation. Maniscalco went to the Land Records and Register of Deeds offices in the historic courthouse on Jan. 10 asking for his property records and deeds to be changed reflecting that he is longer part of Maggie Valley, saving about $2,450 a year in property taxes.

That day, Maniscalco filed three documents with the two county departments. The documents include a de-annexation resolution allegedly signed by DeSimone and Town Clerk Vickie Best, a typed letter signed by the three aldermen who initially supported Maniscalco’s request for de-annexation and an edited version of the letter from Town Manager Tim Barth to state officials dated last August.

It just so happened Attorney Chuck Dickson, who serves as Maggie’s town attorney, was at the Register of Deeds office and overheard Maniscalco. Dixon inquired with the clerk when Maniscalco left about what he had filed.

“From there of course, everything started to unravel,” DeSimone said.

There were several indications that the documents weren’t in fact official documents. 

In the alleged resolution, both Aldermen Philip Wight and Alderman Mike Matthews’ names were misspelled, and the language in the document deviated from the typical language of a real town resolution. 

“They noticed things were wrong with the document. They weren’t written as they should be,” said Det. Tamara Vandermolen with the Waynesville Police Department.

Maniscalco said Town Manager Tim Barth had given him the resolution and told him that he would need to file it with the county.

Although Maniscalco now claims that Barth set him up, Vandermolen said he gave conflicting stories about where the documents came from during a five-hour interview with her.

“He initially told me he got them from one individual and then another individual,” Vandermolen said.

A resolution matching the one Maniscalco filed with Land Records and Register of Deeds was not found on file at the Maggie Valley town hall during the investigation, though one was found with the same identification number, Resolution 07-41. But the corresponding number is for a 2007 resolution on a different matter altogether.

However, Maniscalco argued that he didn’t know the resolution was falsified.

“They set me up with the paperwork that wasn’t going to pass,” Maniscalco said.

Current Maggie Valley Alderman Mike Matthews supports Maniscalco’s claim of innocence.

“From what I’ve seen, I think it’s ridiculous,” Matthew said. “I think the timing was very odd too. This all came out just as he decided to run for office.” The investigation has been ongoing for months, however.

Matthews called the indictment an attempt at a “Hail Mary” pass to ruin Maniscalco by the mayor and Barth.

“There isn’t much that I wouldn’t put past them,” he said. “They have done everything they can to discredit Joe.”

Despite the criminal charges, Maniscalco still plans to run for the town board.

“I am running for alderman because I have to straighten out town hall,” he said. “We want to remove the mayor. As far as I’m concerned, he isn’t doing the right thing.”

If Maniscalco were to win, it is unclear whether he would then be allowed on town hall property.

Maniscalco will have his initial court hearing on Aug. 26 in Haywood County Superior Court.

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