Local News

Ex-Duke surgeon, manager face embezzlement charges

Posted November 30, 2010 11:08 a.m. EST
Updated November 30, 2010 4:52 p.m. EST

— A former Duke University surgeon and manager have been charged with stealing $267,000 from the university, police said Tuesday.

Dr. Eric Joel DeMaria, 51, of 1101 Tacketts Pond Drive in Raleigh, and John William Cotton, 39, of 7228 Loblolly Pine Drive in Raleigh, were each charged with embezzlement of more than $100,000. Cotton also was charged with obtaining property by false pretense.

Cotton was arrested last Wednesday, and DeMaria surrendered to police Tuesday morning. Both have been released on $25,000 bonds.

DeMaria was director of Duke's bariatric surgery program, while Cotton was a business manager in the surgical department at Duke University Hospital, according to Michael Schoenfeld, Duke's vice president for public affairs.

"Both ceased to be Duke employees on Aug. 1," Schoenfeld said, declining to say whether they resigned or were fired.

According to arrest warrants, DeMaria and Cotton took the money between January 2009 and last Christmas Eve.

Cotton also used his position to convert $58,706 in goods and services meant for Duke to his personal use, according to an arrest warrant.

"Duke has a strong system of internal controls, which is why cases like this are so rare, but no system is foolproof," Schoenfeld said, adding that Duke is evaluating its procedures to determine if additional precautions could prevent such cases in the future.

Duke police initially investigated allegations against the men before turning the case over to the Durham County District Attorney's Office.

Attorneys Bill Thomas and Joseph Cheshire, who represent DeMaria, and Thomas Manning, an attorney for Cotton, all declined to comment.

The North Carolina Medical Board usually investigates cases where physicians are charged with crimes, spokeswoman Jean Fisher Brinkley said, but she declined to comment specifically on DeMaria's case.