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Former Phipps' Aide Pleads Guilty To Fraud Conspiracy, Extortion

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GREENVILLE, N.C. — Bobby McLamb, who ran for Agriculturecommissioner against Meg Scott Phipps, then joined her campaignwhen she won the Democratic nomination, pleaded guilty Monday tofraud conspiracy and extortion charges.

McLamb pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mailor wire fraud, and one count of extortion by a public official.

He said little in the brief hearing in before U.S. DistrictJudge Malcolm J. Howard.

McLamb could get up to 25 years in prison and a $500,000 fine athis sentencing, which was scheduled for July 7.

David Long, McLamb's attorney, said he and his client have been cooperative with federal authorities.

"We have talked to them. We will continue to talk to them. If those pieces incriminate somebody, then they incriminate somebody, but I don't know if they will or they won't," said David Long, McLamb's attorney.

"Any time a defendant pleads guilty in a complex case like this, it definitely allows us to go forward in the investigation," U.S. attorney Frank Whitney said.

McLamb was charged in an indictment that outlined a scheme inwhich he and Phipps' campaign treasurer, Linda Saunders, allegedlydiverted contributions intended for Phipps to help pay some ofMcLamb's campaign debt.

McLamb lost to Phipps in the Democratic primary in 2000 and,when he then joined her campaign, Phipps said she would help himrepay what he owed.

Saunders faces a variety of charges related to the allegedscheme, with a possible maximum sentence of 175 years and finestotaling $5 million.

Phipps has not been charged, though federal prosecutors say theinvestigation continues and more people could be charged.

During a hearing before the state Board of Elections last year,Phipps repeatedly denied knowing about her campaign's paymentstoward McLamb's loans. But the indictment said Phipps called andwrote to Centura Bank, where McLamb owed $75,000, asking that theloan be extended.

The State Board of Election last June fined Phipps' campaign$130,000. The board said the campaign had taken $84,202 in cashfrom donors it could not identify and more than $14,000 in illegalcorporate contributions.

Phipps is the first female agriculture commissioner in thestate, the daughter of one Democratic governor and granddaughter ofanother Democrat who was governor and U.S. senator.

 Credits

Cullen Browder, Reporter
Chad Flowers, Photographer
Kamal Wallace, Web Editor

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