Local News

More Charges Possible In Alleged Wake Schools Fraud Scheme

Posted September 12, 2005
Updated November 18, 2006

— Indictments in a suspected fraud scheme involving former employees from Wake County Public School System's transportation department and an automotive parts store are expected this week, according to sources close to the case.

Wake County's District Attorney Colon Willoughby calls the alleged fraud scheme one of the biggest theft cases involving public dollars that he has seen while in office. Investigators say six school system employees, as well as two employees from Barnes Motors & Parts, used orders for fake parts to siphon money from the school system.

Plea negotiations have been discussed and prison time is expected for some key players.

When approached by WRAL on Monday, one suspect that the State Bureau of Investigation calls a "primary participant" would not say much. Bobby Browder, who was on his way to lunch in Tarboro, told WRAL to talk with his attorney, Rick Gammon.

In an SBI affidavit, Browder, who was a regional manager for Barnes, admitted that fake orders were generated through the automotive parts company for the Wake County school system for the purpose of siphoning money.

Browder and a co-worker, Connie Capps, said they did so at the direction of school transportation department head Vern Hatley and transportation budget analyst Carol Finch.

Browder and Capps told investigators they did what Hatley and Finch wanted to protect the business relationship.

Browder has turned over some money, but not as much as others. Capps, for example, turned over nearly $200,000 in merchandise. Hatley paid back nearly $23,000.

Finch, who has been the only suspect criminally charged, turned over a sport utility vehicle, pickup truck, boat, golf carts and a vacation home since her arrest. Those items were recently auctioned off for a total of $98,000, which will go into an escrow account for the school system while the investigation continues.

So far, the school system has recovered $1.5 million dollars, most of which was a payment from Barnes. The parts company said it was a payment for future orders.

The Wake County school system has recently made a number of accounting changes. Still, the Wake County Board of Education wants to do more. It is working to hire an outside auditor.

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