09/16/05 — A deterrent? Perhaps jails need more white collars

View Archive

A deterrent? Perhaps jails need more white collars

Probably every school district in this state is hard up for money. Certainly in our own county citizens annually hear heart-wrenching pleas of school officials for more funds and the agonizing moans of county commissioners struggling to provide them.

So taxpayers across the state must agree with Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby who vows to “show no mercy” on two public school officials and three people associated with a private business charged in a $3.8 million scam of Wake County school funds.

The fraud involved fake invoices for vehicle parts over a two-year period.

Charged are the Wake school system’s former budget and technology analyst, and the schools’ senior director for transportation.

Two high-level managers of Barnes Motor & Parts Co. of Wilson also have been indicted, along with the boyfriend of one of the managers.

That individuals would conspire to defraud a school system of almost $4 million over a two-year period suggests an incredible audacity. That they could succeed for so many months without detection must have been an embarrassment to the school system.

According to Willoughby, a number of other school employees benefited from the scheme. Some who have not yet been indicted reportedly owe the system more than $100,000.

All too often, perpetrators of “white collar” crimes are fined, slapped on the wrist and admonished to sin no more.

Willoughby says he will be pushing for active prison sentences. “These are serious charges,” he said, “and the expectation is that they will do active time.”

That will be regarded as good news not only by taxpayers in Wake County, but by citizens across the state.

Almost daily they read of public money being siphoned off by unscrupulous people in public positions. On the same day Willoughby was making his comments, a news story from nearby Durham told of an audit showing a housing authority there had misspent more than $12 million in federal money and improper loans.

Serious jail time for perpetrators could offer some hope of deterrence.

Published in Editorials on September 16, 2005 8:49 AM