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Ex-Director In Wake Schools Fraud Scheme Files Appeal

Posted Updated
Vern Hatley 1/24/06 court appearance
RALEIGH, N.C. — The former director of the Wake County Public School System's transportation department is appealing a judge's decision that put him in prison for his alleged involvement in a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme.

Vern Hatley was sentenced in February to seven to 10 years after a Wake County Superior Court judge denied Hatley's request for a trial. He had pleaded guilty on Oct. 11, 2005, to charges of conspiracy and obtaining property by false pretense, but later filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea.

Hatley's attorney, Barry Nakell, filed paperwork on Monday with the North Carolina Court of Appeals asking that the court reverse Judge Donald Stephen's decision and allow Hatley to go to trial.

Under his plea deal, which was contingent on his cooperation in the fraud investigation, Hatley could have received five to six years in prison.

In February, Hatley testified that he accepted the plea deal to spare his family and the Wake County school system further embarrassment.

Hatley had admitted to accepting nearly $23,000 worth of items, including $11,000 in gift cards, from Wilson-based automotive suppliers Barnes Motors & Parts. He said, however, that his former budget analyst, Carol Finch, controlled and benefited from the criminal scheme without his knowledge.

Last week, a judge sentenced Finch to six to eight years in prison and ordered her to pay back more than $100,000 to the school system. Other former transportation department employees and former Barnes employees also received sentences ranging from 60 days to six years for their involvement.

A seventh defendant, Harold Estes, who is the husband of a Barnes employee, was found guilty last month and sentenced to 11 to 15 years in prison. He was the only suspect to initially not plead guilty.

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