TAMPA — Thanks to his friends, a Pinellas businessman charged with selling fake computer chips for use in U.S. military planes, warships and missiles may get out of jail while his case is pending.
Shannon L. Wren, 42, of Treasure Island was allowed to post bail after three sets of friends, including his girlfriend's parents, agreed on Monday to guarantee $250,000 of his $350,000 bail by pledging real estate they own as security.
That means they could lose the property if Wren fails to show up for court hearings or his trial.
But they're not worried.
"I trust him 100 percent; he's a good friend," said Dennis Markwart, who is the father of Wren's girlfriend. "I think he's got a bad rap here for some reason. I don't know why."
In addition to the secured bail, U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth A. Jenkins also required Wren's parents to sign a $100,000 signature bond ensuring his presence in court. She also ordered that he wear an electronic monitor and banned him from working in the sale of integrated circuits while his case is pending.
Wren, who owns VisionTech Components in Clearwater, was indicted by a Washington, D.C., grand jury this month along with business manager Stephanie A. McCloskey, 38, of Clearwater on 10 counts that include conspiracy, trafficking in counterfeit goods and mail fraud.
McCloskey is free on $25,000 bail.
At a hearing last week, Wren's attorney, Jeff Brown, told Jenkins that his client did not know the chips were potentially dangerous counterfeits from China. Rather, he said, Wren was a middleman who bought the chips from sources overseas and resold them in the United States.
Prosecutors have said the bogus chips may have compromised national security and put lives at risk, though Wren's indictment does not say they ever were installed on any military hardware.
Markwart doesn't buy any of it. Wren, he said, is "just too nice a guy to put anybody's life in danger."