Local News

Wake D.A.: Charges Could Come This Summer In Fraud Investigation

Posted May 4, 2005

— The state of North Carolina is telling all public school systems to make sure they have proper financial checks and balances.

A letter will go out later this week as a result of the fraud investigation at the Wake County School's Transportation Department.

The State Bureau of Investigation does not suspect any other school systems are caught up in a situation like Wake County.

The Department of Public Instruction, however, felt it was important to remind school systems to have their financial controls in place.

WRAL has been following the Wake County Schools' fraud investigation for eight months now. While the school system is making specific accusations, no one has been criminally charged.

Many of those suspected in the fraud scheme have already handed merchandise and money over to attorneys for Wake Schools and a supplier.

Even so, Wake County District Attorney General Colon Willoughby said it would be a while before criminal charges are filed against former employees for Wake County Schools' Transportation Department and Barnes Motor & Parts.

Right now, he said the SBI is working to unravel how the former employees used orders for fake parts to siphon public dollars and make personal purchases.

"With that number of transactions, trying to properly do an investigation like this, it's very tedious, it's very time consuming," Willoughby said.

It took WRAL months to find Carol Finch, the former budget analyst with the Wake Schools Transportation Department. WRAL approached her at a campground in Washington, N.C. Several people confirmed the woman is Carol Finch.

The school system has been trying to contact her, expecting her to cooperate. The school attorney believes she was very much involved in the fraud scheme.

WRAL initially used a hidden camera to photograph Finch at a campground yard sale and later realized, and has now confirmed, that she was with former Barnes employee Connie Capps, also caught up in the investigation.

Capps worked closely with Finch when she was a manager for Barnes Motor & Parts.

Months ago, Capps turned over a dozen expensive items to attorneys, including a jeep, a truck, two vacation homes, jet skis, golf carts and scooters.

The attorneys for Barnes and the school system say Capps contends Finch actually received some of those items. "At this point, we haven't run down all the leads or been through all the documents to see how widespread the fraud was," Willoughby said.

When WRAL's Kelcey Carlson asked him how long he thought the fraud had been going on, Willoughby said, "two-to-three years."

After resigning, former Schools Transportation Department head Vern Hatley wrote checks to the school system for $23,000 to cover new home carpet, gift cards, a T.V. and computer.

Other former transportation employees, Angela Malloy Sanders and Pam Stewart, turned over at least $30,000 in furniture and money.

The district attorney said while returning items may help with leniency, it doesn't protect them from being charged.

"Helping and cooperating with the investigation doesn't give anyone a pass," Willoughby said.

Willoughby won't say who faces criminal charges, only that charges can be expected this summer.

WRAL has attempted on numerous occasions to talk with the former employees and their attorneys, but so far, they have not commented.


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