Local News

Wake schools fraud convict's house catches fire

Johnston County authorities were called Thursday evening to a house in Benson registered to Harold Estes.

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Harold Estes
BENSON, N.C. — Johnston County authorities are investigating a fire at the home of a man serving a prison sentence for his role in a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme involving the Wake County Public School System.

The sheriff's office was called Thursday evening to a burning house at 100 Lansing Drive in Benson, owned by Harold Estes. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, authorities said Friday afternoon.

Estes was convicted two years ago on charges of conspiracy and obtaining property by false pretenses in a scheme involving fake orders to a Wilson-based automotive-parts supplier and kickbacks to then-employees of the Wake school system's transportation department.

He was sentenced to 11 to 15 years in prison and ordered to pay $500,000 in restitution.

The school system estimates that it lost at least $4 million and has recovered an estimated $5 million. It might never be known, however, how much money was stolen.

Six other people – four former school system employees and two former employees of Barnes Motors & Parts, including Estes' wife, Connie Capps – pleaded guilty in 2005 for their roles in the scheme and received sentences ranging from 60 days to up to 10 years.

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