Local News

Hoke Sheriff on SBI investigation: 'This is serious'

Posted February 21

— The State Bureau of Investigation on Monday evening took control of Hoke County government offices as agents investigated alleged criminal activity. They locked down the building and started collecting evidence.

The building re-opened Tuesday, but the SBI’s investigation is ongoing.

The SBI executed its search warrant at about 4 p.m. Monday, and the agency said it wanted to minimize the impact of shutting down the county office building where the public conducted private business with the county.

Hoke County Manager Letitia Edens said she was surprised by the search.

“That the county was served with a warrant from the SBI to gather some records from the county in regards to some time sheets,” she said.

Edens said the SBI is looking at records of less than five individuals that date back about a year and a half.

Hoke County Sheriff Hubert Peterkin said he is limited in what he can say about the investigation, but he said the ordeal involves much more than just time sheets. He said his office started an investigation after receiving a complaint. Peterkin and District Attorney Kristy Newton quickly realized they needed to call in the SBI.

“Once we looked into the complaint, we realized this situation had gone beyond the scope of our authority, and we felt like calling an independent organization to do the investigation was necessary,” Peterkin said.

The SBI spent about six hours Monday gathering evidence and interviewing employees. Peterkin said the allegation are criminal in nature and the scope of the investigation may stretch beyond the confines of the county's business office on Main Street into other parts of county government.

“At the end of this investigation, I’m going to be surprised if someone is not going to jail in this situation,” Peterkin said. “This is serious.”

Peterkin said his investigation lasted about two months before calling in the SBI. He said the case has the potential to be bigger than the one that sent former Hoke County Manager, Bernice McPhatter, to jail for embezzling more than $250,000 dollars in 2001.

WRAL was unable to obtain a copy of Monday's search warrant because it has not been turned over to the courthouse clerk. It is not clear how long it will take the SBI to complete the investigation.

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