Raleigh, N.C. — Dana Cope, the former director of the State Employees Association of North Carolina, turned himself in Tuesday morning, a day after he was indicted by a Wake County grand jury on two counts of obtaining property by false pretense.
Flanked by his wife, Melinda, and attorney, Roger Smith Jr., Cope arrived about 10 a.m. at the Wake County Detention Center. He was released less than four hours later after posting a $200,000 bond and declined to comment as he left.
"The investigation has been going on for some time. He now faces formal charges, of course. He continues to cooperate," Smith said. "I don't want to get into the full details of what that cooperation means, but we have been meeting with the State Bureau of Investigation. Of course, those folks were down here today. We will continue to meet with them and work through everything."
Cope, 46, of 1900 Sturbridge Court in Raleigh, is accused of using SEANC's credit cards to pay for personal items totaling $457,500.52, such as plastic surgery, home renovations, appliances, vacations, hotel rooms, massages, clothing, jewelry, electronic games and equipment.
He is also accused of submitting fake invoices to get checks, which he used to pay for flying lessons, vacations and landscaping totaling $113,346.05, according to the indictment.
Cope resigned in February after Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman asked the SBI to look into spending irregularities at SEANC, such as a $19,000 check paid to a Washington, D.C., computer company that was reportedly cashed by an Apex landscaping company doing work at Cope’s home.
An audit, conducted by national accounting firm Bond Beebe, found Cope “fabricated” an invoice for the $19,000 check, which was deposited by the landscaping company. The audit also found only about $14,000 paid to the company was legitimate, while another $94,500 in payments were “excessive.”
Other findings included:
- Cope did not reimburse SEANC for nearly $15,000 in travel expenses for a trip to Asia taken by family members.
- Cope used SEANC funds to buy more than $31,000 in private flying lessons.
- Cope received about $17,200 in reimbursement for questionable charges or items missing receipts.
- Cope used the SEANC credit card more than 2,000 times between October 2012 and February 2015 to charge nearly $405,000. Of that amount, about $361,000 was for questionable or undocumented items, such as women’s accessories, car washes, online retail purchases, hotels, airlines, restaurants, iTunes and online gaming.
Mitch Leonard, who followed Cope as SEANC executive director, said the 5,500-member organization is working to recoup the money and implement changes, including many of the recommendations made by Bond Beebe in the report. Among the changes, no check can be issued without proper documentation, a credit limit of $5,000 has been set and credit card charges are allowed only for fuel and hotel expenses unless approved by a supervisor.
Cope is due back in court next Tuesday.
"He will certainly come back to court to answer these charges, and we look forward to going through the process," Smith said.