Southeast K9 Search And Rescue Members Arrested

Posted at 11:02 PM, Jan 07, 2016

They’re known as the "Southeast K9 Search and Rescue,"a group that advertises expertise in finding missing people or bodies for desperate families.

But December 23 two men who run the group, Christopher Williams and Blair Trice, landed behind bars.

McEwan Police say they stole items from Walmarts all over the country.

“They were selling it online,” said McEwen Police Chief Eric Jernigan.

Officers say they found where the two hid the merchandise.

“When we went to the storage unit we found the bulk of the stuff that we were able to recover,” Jernigan said.

But Chief Jernigan says stealing from stores isn't even close to their worst offenses.

“In my opinion they’re nothing but scam artists and thieves ,” Jernigan said.

Their supposed non-profit search and rescue isn't registered with or approved by the state. The Secretary of State’s office has been investigating them for false claims and deception since 2014.

“Someone is not following the law and they need to be held accountable,” said Secretary of State Spokesperson Adam Ghassemi.

Officers say they doubt the K9 even had the training needed.

They say Williams and Trice are wanted in seven local jurisdictions and four states for theft. Two of those states expressed interest in extradition. For now they're still in Humphreys County jail.

But Williams' wife Wanda, officially in charge of the K9 group, was at home when NewsChannel 5 visited.

“No comment please leave and don't come back,” she said.

“Police are saying you’re stealing money through a fake non-profit,” said reporter Rebecca Schleicher.

“We are, check it through the IRS, we are a legit nonprofit,” she said.

According to the state, the Southeast K9 Search and Rescue claimed that it was an IRS 527 and an IRS 501(c )(3) organization. But the group does not hold either of those designations.

Wanda Williams did not invite our crew inside her house. But if she did, police say they would have found an unlivable, filthy home.

“I’ve been doing this 22 years and it was probably the nastiest house I’ve ever been in,” Jernigan said.

It was so bad that during the late December investigation, the local shelter removed the five dogs from the home and police called DCS for the family’s three children.

But as of Thursday, police are breathing easier in McEwen. After investigating the group for more than a year, the search and rescue website says the group is disbanded due to recent events.

“To know that that's probably gonna stop now, it's a great relief ‘cause I don't like to see people taken advantage of,” Jernigan said.

The state slapped the Williams' with a $17,500 fine for faking a non-profit, which they have not paid.

Next they'll go before a judge who will decide what to do with them for the civil offense.

Meantime, McEwen police say the Williams’ could also face criminal charges for forcing animals and children to live in a filthy home.

And police say at least two states want to extradite Blair Trice and Christopher Williams to face more charges relating to Walmart thefts.

Back in 2012 the State Senate honored Wanda Williams for her work through the now-defunct search and rescue group.

Before you give to a nonprofit, verify its credentials with the Secretary of State's office here. You can also call or email your questions here.