CHERRYVILLE, N.C. -- Former Cherryville Police Chief Woody Burgess pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of embezzlement, but a plea deal makes it less likely Burgess will face prison time or a large fine.
Prosecutors allege Burgess embezzled just over $11,000 over a two year period, but the guilty plea was for five town of Cherryville checks written out for about $5,100, with the money, in part, used to buy guns for Burgess' personal use.
Burgess instructed the town's then finance director to write the checks, claiming he was cashing out sick, vacation or comp time when the job didn't allow that.
"Mr. Burgess accepts responsibility for his involvement in this, he is very remorseful for accepting payment for overtime and vacation time that he was not authorized to take," said Burgess' defense attorney Melissa Owen.
"He was supposed to be protecting and serving," said Cherryville resident Steve Gilroy, "Yeah, I'd say let down."
That's how folks in Cherryville feel about Burgess' guilty plea, which is yet another from a town cop.
Earlier this year, a handful of officers pleaded guilty to corruption charges for trafficking stolen goods through the county. It was the result of a large FBI sting. Neighbors say the trust between the town and the police department is broken as a result.
Burgess was not charged in that, but is charged for town money used to buy personal guns. He resigned last fall.
"I gotta work to buy my guns, why shouldn't he," said resident Steve Solesby.
"Nobody wants to be cheated. We work hard for our money," said resident Joyce Nemitz, "You need to be able to trust those who are supposed to be taking care of you and your family, you and the town."
Burgess has to forfeit about $8,500 dollars and three guns seized during the investigation.
He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both. However, part of the plea deal includes Burgess acknowledging he abused a position of trust and in return is expected to get a recommendation for a lighter punishment.
A date for Burgess' sentencing has not been set.
Bonnie Alexander, the former finance director, has already pleaded guilty to embezzling over $435,000 from the town. She’s still awaiting sentencing.