RALEIGH, N.C. — A suspected ringleader in a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme involving the Wake County Public School System is now turning over property.
Carol Finch, who worked in the school system's transportation department as a budget manager, was charged in July with diverting more than $1 million from the school system and is currently in jail on a $1 million bond.
In the last week, Finch has turned over a Chevrolet Tahoe, two golf carts, a pontoon boat and her trailer vacation home in Washington, N.C.
Investigators say Finch helped siphon millions of school transportation dollars through orders for automotive parts that did not exist. Invoices obtained by WRAL show Finch's name all over stacks of invoices that are now in question.
The school system says two former managers from the parts company Barnes Motor & Parts and six school transportation employees benefited from the scheme. Among them was Vern Hatley, the transportation department's former director.
Most of the suspects started turning over money or merchandise months ago.
Finch was not the only one to turn over big-ticket items in the last week. Her former boyfriend, Mike Wade, turned over items, too, including a Ford F150 truck. Wade's attorney said Finch helped him buy it, but that his client was not caught up in the illegal activity.
A Wake County school system spokesman said one of the golf carts was also in Wade's possession and that Wade appeared to have jointly owned the boat with Finch.
Wade, a transportation department employee who was fired in May 2005, told WRAL that he does not know where Finch got her money.
All eight of the individuals who are caught up in the investigation have turned over something, including Connie Capps, who was a manager for Barnes Motor & Parts. She turned over $171,000 worth of campers, cars and recreational toys.
In May, WRAL found Capps with Finch at a campground in May -- eight months after both had lost their jobs. Finch would not talk with WRAL or even admit who she was.
Finch's returns may be the tip of the iceberg. WRAL has invoices showing appliances and an entertainment system delivered to her home and billed through Barnes Motor & Parts. When she was arrested, investigators said she was still out spending gift cards purchased with school money.
Wake School Board attorney Jonathan Blumberg said the school system is aggressively trying to recover money and goods with the help of the Wake County District Attorney's office. Those big-ticket items were auctioned off through Country Boys Auction House in Washington, N.C. The money sits in an escrow account while the investigation continues.
Finch is the only one charged in the investigation, but more charges are expected soon.
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