Local Politics

Ex-Easley aide completes prison sentence

Posted June 9, 2012 3:06 p.m. EDT

— A little more than 11 months after he reported to federal prison, a former top aide to then-North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley is a free man.

Ruffin Poole pleaded guilty in 2010 to tax evasion, shortly before he was scheduled to go to trial on 57 public corruption-related charges, including extortion, bribery and money laundering.

The charge stemmed from $30,000 Poole made on a coastal investment and didn't report in 2005. It was uncovered during a two-year federal investigation into Easley's dealings with friends and contributors while in office.

Federal authorities alleged that Poole became known among Easley's top contributors as "Little Governor" because he was the person tasked with resolving any problems donors faced with state regulators and with lining up appointments for them to serve on state boards and commissions.

In exchange for his work, the donors showered Poole with gifts. He also was allowed to invest in coastal real estate developments at the same time as he was working to secure permits for those projects from state regulators, according to federal indictments.

Wilmington developer Lanny Wilson allowed Poole to invest in the Cannonsgate development in Carteret County in 2005, and in an attempt to curry favor for permits and an appointment to a state board, Wilson quickly turned a $30,000 profit for Poole, prosecutors said.

Easley and his wife later purchased a waterfront lot in Cannonsgate at a below-market rate.

Poole reported to prison in July 2011 and was released on Friday, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.