Log in Subscribe

Former Spring Lake finance director pleads guilty to embezzlement

Posted

The former  Spring Lake finance director and accounting technician pleaded guilty Wednesday to embezzling more than $500,000 from the town between 2016 and 2021, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Gay Cameron Tucker, 64, of Fayetteville, pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement from a local government receiving federal funds and to one count of aggravated identity theft, the U.S Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina said in a release. She faces up to 12 years in prison.

“Public officials are entrusted to protect public funds,” U.S. Attorney Michael Easley said in the release. “This defendant breached the public’s trust by using public funds intended for her local community to pay her own personal expenses. Public corruption is a crime that affects all of us and undermines our public institutions. Our office will continue partnering with law enforcement to investigate allegations of public corruption in any form.”

Tucker wrote checks from the town’s bank accounts for her personal use, forging the signatures of other town officials, including the mayor and town manager, the release said.  The forged checks were made payable to herself, used to cover personal expenses, and deposited into bank accounts she controlled, the release said.

Tucker was arrested in June after being indicted by a federal grand jury.

A state audit released March 17 found that a former Spring Lake official used at least $430,112 in town money for her personal use.

Those findings were referred to the FBI and the State Bureau of Investigation to determine if there was sufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges.

The audit did not name the former accounting technician, but CityView learned that Tucker served in that capacity from July 2014 through March 2020, and again from April 2021 until her termination in July 2021. Tucker also served as the interim finance director from March 2020 to September 2020 and as the finance director from September 2020 to April 2021.

The Local Government Commission assumed control of the town’s finances last October amid concerns over budget deficits, fiscal disarray and possible missing money.

The Board of Aldermen has been working to address issues raised in the March audit report and for the town to resume control of its finances.

Fredricka Sutherland, who served on the town board from 2005 to 2021, called it a “sad situation.’’

“She was an employee of the town,’’ Sutherland said. “You cannot do this and get away with it. We should all be accountable and these were taxpayer dollars.’’

Alderman Marvin Lackman said he was glad to “have some closure on this matter.’’

“It does not bring the money or trust back, but Mrs. Tucker will now pay the residents of Spring Lake with her loss of freedom,’’ he said. “With the help of the Local Government Commission, we have put in place measures to safeguard our residents’ tax dollars.’’

Alderman Raul Palacios said the situation reinforced the need to have qualified personnel in place.

“For Spring Lake, this is another reason we need well-qualified professionals running our town, and a board that keeps their attention on our finances,’’ he said.

Jami McLaughlin contributed to this report.

 

Spring Lake, finance director, embezzlement