04/09/04 — Greene awaits drug-deal windfall

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Greene awaits drug-deal windfall

By Sam Atkins
Published in News on April 9, 2004 2:04 PM

SNOW HILL -- An expected $500,000 payment thanks to an alleged drug dealer skipping out on his bond will likely fall into the laptops -- computers, that is -- of Greene County students.

The money may come to the school system because of a March 22 decision by Superior Court Judge Paul Jones.

In 2002, Miuler Flores was charged by the Greene County Sheriff's Office with possession of 3.3 pounds of cocaine. He was charged with four counts of felony drug trafficking.

Flores' bond was set at $500,000, which was posted by a licensed bondsman based in Wilmington. Flores never showed up in court and left the bondsman's insurance company, Aegis Security Insurance Co., liable for that amount.

Under the state constitution, fines and forfeitures are paid to the county's board of education, said John Walston of Goldsboro, who is the Greene County school board lawyer.

The Greene County Board of Education has the final say on how money is allocated, but it is likely that some of it will go to fund the "iTech" project, said Harvey Gay, director of finance for the school system.

"We are pushing it to be really successful," he added, regarding the project.

It is the first of its kind in small rural school systems in the United States and enables all students in grades six through 12 to receive a laptop computer at the beginning of the year to use all year.

The computers are paid for over a four-year period, and Gay believes the money would help not only pay for the current lease but also extend the lease and allow other grades to participate. It could also go toward other technological or instructional needs in the classrooms.

But the money is not in the county's coffers yet. There could be a lengthy legal process ahead.

Lawyers for the bond company argued that neither the bondsman nor the insurance company received a notice that was sent Feb. 11, 2003, stating that the bond was forfeited. Jones ruled against the insurance company's request to avoid payment.

Walston said the money is being held by the N.C. Department of Insurance. He expects the order to be challenged, but Aegis Security Insurance Co. could not be reached for comment on whether it would appeal.

The ruling must be appealed by April 30. If the appeal time lapses, the money would be sent from the state to the Greene County Clerk of Court and then to the Board of Education, said Walston.

If it goes to the Appeals Court, a three-judge panel will review the case to see if Judge Jones erred. If the court is not unanimous, the insurance company would have the right to appeal it again to the N.C. Supreme Court, he added.

The money has been earning an interest rate of 8 percent since the bond forfeiture became a final judgment, said Walston.