Local News

Former Bladen official pleads guilty to fraud

Posted October 9, 2012 3:19 p.m. EDT

— A former Bladen County official pleaded guilty Monday to fraud in connection with the misuse of county funds, authorities said.

Mitchell Gerald Byrd, 52, of 1340 River Road in White Oak, pleaded guilty to two counts of obtaining property by false pretense. He was sentenced to 10 to 12 months in prison, which was suspended to 24 months on probation, and agreed to pay $6,000 in restitution to the county.

While serving as fire marshal and director of Emergency Management Services, Byrd would buy items that he said the county needed and would later return them for store credit, which he used to buy gifts or rewards for other county employees, authorities said. The gifts included clothing, jewelry and artwork.

County officials initially questioned Byrd about the purchases in 2007, and the issue was referred to the State Bureau of Investigation two years later. Byrd was indicted on 25 charges a year ago.

As part of the plea deal, the Bladen County Sheriff's Office will auction off the gifts that were seized in the investigation, with the proceeds going to local public schools, authorities said.