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School fraud convict can't swap fine for more jail time

Posted August 4, 2008

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— A man convicted for his role in a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme involving the Wake County school system's transportation department will have to pay restitution, a judge ruled Monday.

Harold Estes, 63, was convicted two years ago in a scheme involving fake orders to a Wilson-based automotive-parts supplier and kickbacks to employees of the school system's transportation department.

He was sentenced to 11 to 15 years in prison and ordered to pay a $500,000 fine.

Estes' attorney on Monday, however, asked that 30 days be added to his client's sentence in lieu of the fine.

Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens denied the motion but moved the fine over to civil court. That means Estes can petition the court again toward the end of his sentence.

The court could also put a lien on Estes' properties if he does not pay the fine.

According to tax records, Estes owns at least $900,000 worth of property, including 10 parcels of land totaling $340,571 in Johnston County. Wake County tax records show a service station on N.C. Highway 42 valued at $444,558 and a home on Renfrow Road, worth $131,317.

Six other people – four former school system employees and two former employees of Barnes Motors & Parts, including Estes' wife, Connie Capps – pleaded guilty in 2005 for their roles in the scheme and received sentences ranging from 60 days to up to 10 years.

The Wake County Public School System's former transportation department director, Vern Hatley, was sentenced to 7 to 10 years in February 2006.

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

The school system lost at least $4 million and has recovered an estimated $5 million. It might never be known, however, how much money was stolen.

31 Comments

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  • Tarheel born Aug 4, 2008

    Now that we know what hurts.....go after ALL his property. Go ahead NOW and put liens against his real property! Please, 30 days for 500K. Who wouldn't want that deal. Good job Judge Donald Stevens!

  • makeitright Aug 4, 2008

    another case of who's watching the lawyers and judges? It's all a game anymore.

  • Panther Aug 4, 2008

    How the judge kept a straight face is a wonder beyond me!!!

  • something2say Aug 4, 2008

    He certainly has the assets so he is going to be selling things off or they will have a lien on them! Good, he should not be able to live the good life on money he stole from Wcpss

  • cdx06 Aug 4, 2008

    He must know something, he's the happiest looking convict it's ever been!

  • celong Aug 4, 2008

    I could not wait to see some of the posts on this one and I must say I like the Black Eye Exam best. Lawyers help people get out of owing the IRS all the time, just look at those TV ads but this guy swindled/embezzled or whatever you want to call it, MILLIONS and he thinks 30 days in the whoosegaw will be an equal trade. What a joke.

  • Heatherbrook Aug 4, 2008

    Do the men in White Coats need to come for Mr. Estes and his Lawyer?

  • teacher-mom Aug 4, 2008

    I am so glad someone else sees the humor in this. I would serve a year in jail for that amount of money. That was funny especially due to the fact that they bilked the taxpayers out of millions of dollars. We will probably never know how much money was taken. Is that Barnes company still in business? I hope not.

  • drabbacs2 Aug 4, 2008

    Not sure its still done but it once was common for a judge to offer ...say...$10,000 fine or 6 months in jail.The numbers in this story are quite different but the principle is the same.Right?

  • tarheelalum Aug 4, 2008

    "Estes' attorney on Monday, however, asked that 30 days be added to his client's sentence in lieu of the fine."

    I would serve 30 days in jail for $500,000 and I haven't even been convicted of anything!!!!! I would even serve longer!

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