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2006 Top Newsmakers: Wake Schools Fraud Case

Posted December 26, 2006

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— (Aug. 25) The only suspect not to plead guilty in a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme involving the Wake County Public School system was convicted on Aug. 25.

Harold Estes was sentenced to 11 to 15 years in prison for his role in the scheme involving fake orders to Wilson-based automotive-parts supplier Barnes Motors & Parts and kickbacks to employees of the school system's transportation department. Estes, at the time, was the boyfriend of a Barnes employee.

Six other people pleaded guilty in 2005 for their roles in the scheme and were sentenced in September, receiving sentences ranging from 60 days to up to 10 years.

Former transportation department director Vern Hatley was sentenced to 7 to 10 years in February after he filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea.

Another key player in the scheme, transportation budget analyst Carol Finch, was sentenced to six to eight years.

It might never be known how much money was lost, but the Wake County school system has recovered an estimated $5 million.

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