Former police chief will plead guilty to embezzlement

Former police chief will plead guilty to embezzlement

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by ELIZABETH THOMAS / WCNC.com

WCNC.com

Posted on June 24, 2013 at 12:54 PM

Updated Thursday, Jan 2 at 5:57 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. --  The Western District of North Carolina U.S. Attorney's Office announced Monday that the former Cherryville police chief has been charged with embezzlement.

Authorities say 60-year-old Woodrow "Woody" Burgess has agreed to plead guilty on the one count of program embezzlement filed against him.

The plea agreement was filed in U.S. District Court on Monday. Court documents allege Burgess embezzled more than $11,000 of city funds by forcing the Cherryville Finance Director, Bonny Alexander, to issue Cherryville city checks to "The Great Outdoors, Inc." for purchase of firearms for Burgess' personal use.

The documents continue that Burgess told Alexander the checks had been authorized as a "cash-out"  for compensatory time. Alexander issued the checks and made the appropriate notations to the city's books.

Burgess was aware that he was not entitled to cash payments for sick, vacation or comp time, the documents state.

The charge against Burgess carries a max sentence of 10 years in prison and/or a $250,000 find. Burgess will appear for a plea hearing on Tuesday. The plea agreement states Burgess has agreed to pay restitution in full, the amount of which will be determined by the court at sentencing.

In January, Alexander entered guilty pleas on five counts of program embezzlement for stealing more than $435,000 in city funds. A sentencing date has not yet been set for this case.

The investigation is led by the State Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The charge is the latest development in the story of the Cherryville Police Department and other local government entities embroiled in scandal since late 2011.

Most recently, Burgess' home was raided by the FBI in April, about six months after Burgess resigned as Cherryville Police Chief following allegations of corruption within the department.

Six people, half of whom were Cherryville police officers and one a Gaston County Sheriff's Deputy, were indicted on corruption charges in mid-October of 2012. The indictments alleged the four officers and the two other men helped transport thousands of dollars in stolen goods and cash across Gaston County.

Although Burgess was not named either of the two criminal indictments, the town of Cherryville suspended him with pay, along with Cherryville Police Captain Mike Allred.

Both the town clerk and finance director left their jobs in December 2011 after an internal audit showed a misuse of city credit cards, according to The Charlotte Observer.  That money was reportedly repaid.

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