Spring Lake’s former finance director was sentenced to four years in federal prison Wednesday for embezzling more than $500,000 from the town, the U.S. Attorney announced.
Gay Cameron Tucker, 64, pleaded guilty to embezzlement from an agency receiving federal funds and aggravated identity theft on Sept. 21.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, between 2016 and 2021, Tucker wrote checks from Spring Lake’s bank accounts for her personal use, forging the signatures of other town officials, including the mayor and town manager. These forged checks were made payable to herself, used to cover her personal expenses, and deposited into bank accounts she controlled, a news release said. Tucker stole $567,070 from the town over five years.
The technician wrote 32 checks for a total of more than $16,000 that were payable to Bragg Mutual Federal Credit Union and deposited into her personal bank account there, according to the report.
A 56-page investigation report that was released by State Auditor Beth Wood in March said 27 checks totaling more than $151,000 were made out as payable to a technician, later identified as Tucker, with 24 checks deposited into her personal account and one deposited into her husband’s account at the credit union. Thirteen checks for a total of more than $113,000 were made payable to Heritage Place Senior Living and used to pay the monthly rent for Tucker’s husband.
At that time, Tucker was an accounting technician and toward the end was promoted to finance director. She had control of the town’s bank accounts and hid her transactions by keeping them out of the town’s financial books, State Auditor Beth Wood said in September.
The thefts went unnoticed for so long because no one was checking the bank records against the town’s financial books, Wood said, and the town was not conducting routine audits.
Tucker’s malfeasance was one of a number of problems that the Auditor’s Office found with town officials’ handling of finances and town property. For example, records indicate the town lost track of several dozen town vehicles. Also, town employees made more than 600 credit card purchases totaling nearly $103,000 that lacked sufficient documentation to show whether they were for town business.
During the course of the government’s investigation into Tucker, Spring Lake hired a financial consultant to assist with an audit of the town’s finances for 2019 and 2020 and also discovered financial irregulates, the release said. Tucker was removed from her position as finance director in March 2021. She was indicted in June by a federal grand jury.
As a result of the mismanagement, Spring Lake’s finances are now under the supervision of the North Carolina Local Government Commission.
“Public corruption at any level is a crime that affects all of us and undermines our public institutions,” U.S. Attorney Michael Easley said in the news release. “This defendant abused her position of trust by using public funds intended for her local community to pay her own personal expenses.”
This article originally appeared on The Fayetteville Observer: Ex-Spring Lake finance director gets four years in federal prison