Local News

Ex-Cumberland deputy pleads guilty to fraud

Posted December 15, 2010 11:24 a.m. EST
Updated December 15, 2010 11:46 a.m. EST

— A former Cumberland County deputy pleaded guilty Tuesday to fraud for falsifying his time sheets, authorities said Wednesday.

Neelis Smith, 48, was placed on two years of unsupervised probation after pleading guilty to one count of obtaining property by false pretense. Smith, who was fired from the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office in March 2008, had been indicted on 60 fraud charges, but the other charges were dismissed as part of a plea agreement.

Smith entered an Alford plea, which allows a defendant to plead guilty while still maintaining his innocence. Under the plea, Smith admitted it was in his best interest to take the plea deal because there was sufficient evidence to find him guilty.

Sheriff Earl "Moose" Butler fired Smith and LaRue Windham after an internal investigation determined that they worked off-duty jobs during periods when they were supposed to be working their shifts for the sheriff's office.

Windham hasn't been criminally charged in the case.

After the double-dipping came to light, an auditor reviewed more than 5,000 time sheets with 69,000 entries, covering the activities of 192 Cumberland County deputies from January 2007 to February 2008.

The records of four other deputies were turned over to prosecutors, but no criminal charges were filed against them.