Local News

N.C. Appeals Court to Hear Wake Schools Fraud Case

Posted July 7, 2007

— The only suspect not to plead guilty in a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme involving the Wake County Public School System will have his case heard before the North Carolina Court of Appeals in September.

Harold Estes was sentenced to 11 to 15 years in prison on Aug. 25, 2006, 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 received sentences ranging from 60 days to up to 10 years.

The school system's former transportation department director, Vern Hatley, was sentenced to 7 to 10 years in February 2006 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 at least an estimated $5 million.


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  • maintenance man Jul 8, 2007

    Mabt it is time for all out school systems in NC to be held accountable for the money they spend. Once a county board of education is given funding each year no one has any controll over how it is spent. How many times do bonds for new schools end up funding football fields and other items, not buildings for children to go to class in. Stop and thing just how mush funding goes for Ballgames.

  • Blue Splinter Jul 8, 2007


  • George Costanza Jul 8, 2007

    Nice job BOE on the land purchase in APEX reported in the N&O today.

  • Nancy Jul 8, 2007

    "WCPSS has hired a firm to be their independent auditors."

    Now all we have to hope for is that they make the annual report easily available online to all residents.

  • poohperson2000 Jul 8, 2007

    WCPSS has hired a firm to be their independent auditors.

  • mrduffin Jul 7, 2007

    Durham schools are no better. They have employees driving home vehicles who live 50 miles one way. Plus you have systems running 24/7 because no one cares to conserve on the untility bills. Just ask for more money........

  • Durham-Raleigh Jul 7, 2007

    Education lottery == state, not just Wake.

    Billion dollar bond == just a start of BILLIONS of building that everyone knew before the '06 issue were needed.

    I am consistently surprised at the paucity of knowledge demonstrated by members of the public over these two facts. It's all too easy to argue that taxes are 'too high,' but it's a far different thing to think of realistic alternatives that can actually solve the problem.

  • Nancy Jul 7, 2007

    WCPSS is operated in a relative vacuum, there should be annual independent audits and those reports should be made public.

    Then not only would we be able to see these types of problems, but we would also CLEARLY see how the school board wastes money that does nothing to resolve the real school issues such as capacity and planning.

  • ladyblue Jul 7, 2007

    He should get an appeal. He got more time than all the others combined didn't he because he wouldn't plea bargain? I agree that if they don't know how much money was actually stolen, they should fire everyone in the department who should know and start over. None of these people pay the full amount back when caught embezzling.

  • Karmageddon Jul 7, 2007

    "It might never be known how much money was lost"

    What's with that? Don't they have records? If they can't figure out how much money was stolen from the public school system then more heads need to roll. Maybe it's time for the school system to be turned over to a private business