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Ex-Duke surgeon, manager face embezzlement charges

Posted November 30, 2010

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— A former Duke University surgeon and manager have been charged with stealing $267,000 from the university, police said Tuesday.

Dr. Eric Joel DeMaria, 51, of 1101 Tacketts Pond Drive in Raleigh, and John William Cotton, 39, of 7228 Loblolly Pine Drive in Raleigh, were each charged with embezzlement of more than $100,000. Cotton also was charged with obtaining property by false pretense.

Cotton was arrested last Wednesday, and DeMaria surrendered to police Tuesday morning. Both have been released on $25,000 bonds.

DeMaria was director of Duke's bariatric surgery program, while Cotton was a business manager in the surgical department at Duke University Hospital, according to Michael Schoenfeld, Duke's vice president for public affairs.

"Both ceased to be Duke employees on Aug. 1," Schoenfeld said, declining to say whether they resigned or were fired.

According to arrest warrants, DeMaria and Cotton took the money between January 2009 and last Christmas Eve.

Cotton also used his position to convert $58,706 in goods and services meant for Duke to his personal use, according to an arrest warrant.

"Duke has a strong system of internal controls, which is why cases like this are so rare, but no system is foolproof," Schoenfeld said, adding that Duke is evaluating its procedures to determine if additional precautions could prevent such cases in the future.

Duke police initially investigated allegations against the men before turning the case over to the Durham County District Attorney's Office.

Attorneys Bill Thomas and Joseph Cheshire, who represent DeMaria, and Thomas Manning, an attorney for Cotton, all declined to comment.

The North Carolina Medical Board usually investigates cases where physicians are charged with crimes, spokeswoman Jean Fisher Brinkley said, but she declined to comment specifically on DeMaria's case.


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  • dwr1964 Dec 1, 2010

    farrell nightrider.....I will not argue with you on the "uncle mikey" situation, but the kids on the lacross team were perfectly innocent. It's people like you that try to criminalize everything. In the real world, when it is prooven that one person lied to attempt retrobution against someone they are mad at, it is wrong. Get your facts straight before opening your mouth. It does make you look "under-educated", but the proper term is "ignorant".

  • See Chart Nov 30, 2010


  • mshood7 Nov 30, 2010

    These are the people who are nothing more than common thiefs. Their resumes are paddeda but their character sooner or later makes its presence known. Many are fooled by their somewhat debonair demeanor and even their professional fields of medicine. Some are there because of some either political persuasion and last until they have drained they respected system and brought shame upon the "FINEST SCHOOL NOT ONLY IN THE SOUTH, but nation wide as well as world wide. So we see them surrounded by their lawyers who will try to plead their case even using religion and loose candid connections to the University. If they are innocent then they have nothing to worry about, if the evidence proves to condemn them, I can only hope that the full extent of the law renders justice and they serve out their respective terms with the same dignity and grace they launched their little money grabbinb scheme that only cheats those who go through the front door and pay the full price of having had the opport

  • priorities Nov 30, 2010

    Wow! Some of these comments are very crazy. Also, WRAL has a lot of the story wrong. Interesting that Duke is saying Dr. Demaria was the bariatric surgery director. He had not held that post since late 2008. However he was the head of endosurgery and is considered one of the BEST laproscopic surgeons in the country. Just wait till this goes to court but actually it will not. Duke has no interest in the truth coming out, they simply want to smear a good doctor so he cant compete with them.

  • priorities Nov 30, 2010

    Just FYI: When someone is charged it doesn't mean they are guilty in fact in America people are innocent until proven guilty!
    All is not what it seems here. Yet again, Duke is out to railroad people it doesn't want around. I can say for sure that there is a lot more here and it will not look good for Duke!

  • jenzinnia Nov 30, 2010

    Welcome to gololand ahoney67. I'll share a little of my unsolicited advise if you choose to read it...

    We always enjoy new member initiations, so don't take anything too personal on a story like this. And, for the really serious issues including politics, you just have to step back sometimes and agree to disagree. Most of the censors are really good on here, but if there are several stories happening at once with a lot of comments, they can get a little testy. Which in turn can make us testy as well.....especially on very passionate matters. I'm sure you'll find that out soon. There's nothing that helps better than just leaving the screen for a few minutes and drinking a good old glass of your beverage of choice.

    Just make sure you have a strong heart, a good bp and enhanced 911. There a lots of times the golo-ing is better than the actual story.

  • farrell nightrider Nov 30, 2010

    He will walk free because he got the GODFATHER Joey defending him, just like he got the lacrosse boys off scott free and uncle mikey with just a $1000.00 fine.

  • scientistjo Nov 30, 2010

    Duke is really falling apart. Two scientists were just caught fudging data. One was forced to quit and could face criminal charges.

  • jenzinnia Nov 30, 2010

    Gotta love rocker96's 3:09pm posting! I've been censored so many times in gololand and all while trying to use my 'educated, sensitive manner of speaking' vs. my street language. I do much better with street language on here.

    Yeah...just goes to show that the haves and the havenots definately have common denominators..in just about all aspects of human behavior. Difference most of the time being the haves can afford atty's that get them a reduced bail. but they still have to pay the atty...it just saves them some embarrassment down the road after the initial bust when the whole world finds out about it. Maybe Bernie needs a roommate.

  • LuvLivingInCary Nov 30, 2010

    if anyone thinks this kinda thing only happens at duke they are grinning themselves. honestly it sounds like duke has a quality auditing team.