Sunday, June 16, 2024

Men with Wayne County Sheriff’s Office ties accused of rigging bids

A federal grand jury has indicted one current and one former deputy of the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office in regards to an alleged bid-rigging scheme.

Michael Kenneth Cox, 48, and Christopher C. Worth, 52, each face 12 separate fraud charges that accuse the pair of steering contracts for upgrading Wayne County Sheriff’s Office vehicles to a business owned by Cox and employing Worth, regardless of whether Cox’s company provided the work at the lowest price as required by the Wayne County procurement requirements.

Cox was employed by the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office from 1996 until he retired as the head of the Drug Unit in 2018. Worth joined the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office in 1993 and currently serves as a major overseeing criminal enforcement sections and support services.

In addition to the fraud charges, the grand jury indicted Cox for conspiring with multiple drug traffickers to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute cocaine and oxycodone and two counts of making false statements to the FBI.

Law enforcement officers take an oath to protect and serve our communities by upholding the rule of law,” said U.S. Attorney Michael Easley. “Our office will continue to hold accountable those who violate the public trust and abuse their position for personal gain.”

Wayne County Sheriff Larry Pierce instructed his staff to refer all calls to Joel Gillie, a spokesperson for Wayne County. Gillie says Worth has been put on administrative leave without pay. He was earning $87,312 per year from the Sheriff’s Office.

Gillie later sent a “joint statement” from Pierce and Wayne County. In the statement, Pierce states he had known of a federal investigation dating back to the fall of 2021, but did know know of the specific charges until the U.S. Attorney’s press release sent Aug. 30.

The statement goes on to say that all Wayne County employees, including the Sheriff’s Office, had cooperated with the investigation and provided information as requested. “After learning of the investigation, the Wayne County Finance Department and the Sheriff’s Office implemented immediate corrective action,” the statement reads.

The statement ends with: “Wayne County and the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office will continue to cooperate with any requests from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

Cox did not immediately return a message left with a person at his business, Eastern Emergency Equipment. Cox remained in custody as of 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 30, and Worth has been released on bond awaiting trial, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The grand jury returned the indictment on Aug. 17, according to a release sent Wednesday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina.


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