WRAL Investigates

State ABC aware probes focus on New Hanover board

Posted January 25, 2011

— The state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission on Tuesday acknowledged that the liquor board in New Hanover County is the focus of state and federal investigations.

Wilmington general contractor Lee F. Cowper faces federal mail fraud charges after investigators say he overcharged for construction on the Porter's Neck ABC store by $43,000 to make up for what he was owed by former New Hanover ABC administrator Billy Williams for work done on Williams' garage.

Cowper's attorney, Joe Cheshire of Raleigh, on Monday called his client "a peripheral casualty in a federal investigation into the workings of the New Hanover County ABC Board." Cowper is cooperating with government agents, Cheshire said.

Agnes Stevens, a spokeswoman for the ABC Commission, said Tuesday that the state board is aware of state and federal investigations in New Hanover County but isn't involved in either.

"The parties (under investigation) and the old board are no longer part of the New Hanover ABC operations," Stevens said.

Williams retired a year ago, and members of the New Hanover ABC board have since been replaced.

In the past two years, the New Hanover ABC board came under fire for high salaries and building contracts that came in well over the estimated cost.

Thomas Wolfe, who became chairman of the New Hanover ABC board last July, said Monday that his agency is committed to transparency.


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  • chevybelair57sd Jan 26, 2011

    The state by leaving this division in the hands of local good ole boys has asked for failure at the taxpayers expence. Privatize and watch the system pay taxes instead of cost them

  • Alex25 Jan 25, 2011

    ABC should PRIVATIZE ASAP!!! jeeez.......

  • Alex25 Jan 25, 2011

    PRIVATIZE ASAP!!! jeeez.......

  • dewnit4fun Jan 25, 2011


  • hsteele2492 Jan 25, 2011

    The politicians will never give up control. To many political plums to distribute

  • ncspamfish Jan 25, 2011

    state abc stores..........corruption run amuck!!!

  • Card Player Jan 25, 2011

    The liquor contol board in this state is ridiculous with corruption and overpayment of employees. They ought to move it into the grocery stores and simply collect the taxes. There is no need for this waste and corruption.

  • Keepin_it_real_in_NC Jan 25, 2011

    Just another reason to turn this over to the private sector.