Local News

Ex-Official Pleads Innocent in Durham Loan Scandal

Posted February 7, 2007 12:27 p.m. EST
Updated February 7, 2007 3:29 p.m. EST

— The former director of a federal small-business loan program pleaded not guilty Wednesday in connection with a 6-year-old fraud case.

Anita Bennett, 40, of Dangerfield Drive in Raleigh, was charged last year after authorities said she issued more than $800,000 in loans to nonexistent companies. Investigators said some of the money from the bogus loans was funneled back to her.

Bennett had been contracted by Durham in 1999 to run the federal loan program, which was designed to encourage small businesses to open in low-income areas. She was fired from her job in 2001.

She is charged with felonious conspiracy and obtained property in excess of $100,000 by false pretense. Her trial is set for Sept. 27.

Her husband and sister also have been charged in the case. Kathy Marie Fenner, 43, of Sunshine Road in Burgaw, and James Leroy Bennett II, 42, of Dangerfield Drive in Raleigh, face the same charges as Anita Bennett.

A fourth defendant, Carlton Olander Clark, 43, of Centra Villa Drive in Atlanta, reached a plea deal with prosecutors last month and agreed to testify against the Bennetts and Fenner.