Money is never an easy thing to talk about. But marital finances are what briefly landed another Zimmerman in the custody of Florida law enforcement Tuesday. The wife of George Zimmerman, the Sanford, Fla., neighborhood-watch volunteer who is standing trial on second-degree murder charges for killing African-American teen Trayvon Martin, was herself taken into custody. Shellie Zimmerman, 25, was booked on one count of perjury and released on $1,000 bond, according to the Seminole County Sheriff’s Department.
At an April 20 bond hearing, Shellie Zimmerman misrepresented her family’s financial status, according to the order issued Tuesday by Assistant State Attorney John Guy.
The sheriff’s office received a call Tuesday from the office of State Attorney Angela Corey, who is prosecuting 28-year-old George Zimmerman, to inform them of a warrant for Shellie Zimmerman’s arrest. They took the woman into custody around 3:30 p.m. “where she was residing in Seminole County,” according to the statement. The Zimmermans have maintained a low profile since the Feb. 26 shooting sparked national outrage. George Zimmerman returned to prison on June 3 after his bond was revoked when prosecutors showed he had stashed away a second passport.
The key testimony for Tuesday’s arrest regards Shellie Zimmerman’s knowledge of a PayPal account in which close to $135,000 was received in donations for her husband’s defense.
“Were you aware of the website that Mr. Zimmerman or somebody on his behalf created?” Shellie Zimmerman was asked at an April 20 bond hearing for her husband.
“I’m aware of that website.”
“And how much money is in that website right now? How much money as a result of that website was—”
“Currently, I do not know.”
When asked if she knew how much money might have been collected through the site, and how long it had been in existence, Shellie Zimmerman replied that she was unaware of those facts, as well.
Prosecutors say she wasn’t telling the truth, and that she and her husband were fully aware of the more than $100,000 they had stashed away. In the arrest affidavit issued Tuesday, prosecutors revealed that Shellie Zimmerman had made recorded calls to her husband in jail before the hearing in which they discussed the website and online account.
Those calls, in which the couple appears to discuss moving money in increments as small as “$8.60,” were in code, Corey said in court documents. George Zimmerman “fully controlled and participated in the transfer of money from the PayPal account to defendant and his wife’s credit-union accounts,” Corey said. “This occurred prior to the time defendant was arguing to the court that he was indigent and his wife had no money.”
At the April 20 hearing, Shellie Zimmerman was asked if her family had sufficient financial means to post bail for her husband. When asked if there were “major assets that you have which you can liquidate reasonably to assist in coming up with money for a bond,” the woman replied, “None that I know of.” Shellie Zimmerman also was asked at the hearing before Judge Kenneth R. Lester if her extended family might be able to help her husband post bond.
“We have discussed that,” she replied, “trying to pull together the members of the family to scrape up anything that we possibly can.”
When asked if her family had “in terms of the ability of your husband to make a bond amount, that you all had no money,” Shellie Zimmerman replied, “To my knowledge, that’s correct.”
A review of bank records by prosecutors revealed that Shellie Zimmerman moved $74,000 from her husband’s account to her own account between April 16 and 19, only days before the hearing, according to court documents. The money was moved in eight separate transfers, the largest of which totals $9,999.
A review of those same records also shows that the Zimmermans were moving money from George’s account to his sister’s, according to the affidavit. A total of $47,000 was moved from George Zimmerman’s account to his sibling’s between April 16 and 17, according to the documents.
In her testimony on April 20, Shellie Zimmerman said she continued to speak with her husband every day. At least one of those communications took place over the phone at a branch of the Insight Credit Union, T.C. O’Steen, an investigator for Florida’s Fourth Judicial Circuit, alleges in the affidavit issued Tuesday.
Investigators met with an assistant branch manager at the bank who told them that on April 16, Shellie Zimmerman had transferred control of her husband’s account to herself. The branch manager told the investigators that George Zimmerman was on the phone with his wife during the meeting, and that he spoke directly with the jailed man about the relocation of the funds.
Shellie Zimmerman was taken Tuesday to the John E. Polk Correctional Facility in Sanford, where her husband is being held. She was booked, and made $1,000 bond. The family did not seem to have difficulty coming up with those funds.
She will be arraigned on July 31.