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Durham Calls For Criminal Investigation Of Loan Program

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DURHAM — Questions about a Durham loan program have risen to the level where city leaders have called for a criminal probe.

An federal audit of Raleigh-based Triangle Economic Development Corporation, which runs the loan program,found problems.

"The information provides me cause to conclude there is probable cause to believe that multiple state and federal criminal violations have been committed by persons associated with Triangle Economic Development Corporation," says Durham District Attorney Jim Hardin.

The audit determined that every one of the loans lacked proper documentation, and than half were not being repaid.

Hardin presented the findings to Durham City Council members during an emergency meeting Monday.

The council voted unanimously to initiate a criminal probe into the program that provided close to $1 million in small business loans.

"We want to ensure that those who are responsible for the mismanagement and abuse of this program are held accountable for their actions," says City Manager Marcia Conner.

Conner has accepted the resignation of Greg Payne, the city's employment and economic development director, effective immediately.

Conner says she did not ask Payne to step down.

Mayor Nick Tennyson say the fault does not lie with any one person, and that the city council must take some of blame.

"I'm here to take responsibility for the fact that in this case, we did not get the job done," he says.

The attorney for Anita Bennet, the woman who ran the loan program, feels his client will take the fall.

Tennyson warned citizens not to expect immediate results from the investigation.

"Turning this over to the FBI and the inspector general at HUD does not translate into getting answers tomorrow. What it translates to is getting the full and complete situation reviewed," he says.


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