'You have to pay to play:' Longtime NC probation officer fired for taking money from offender

NORTH CAROLINA (WTVD) -- A longtime North Carolina probation officer has been fired after officials said he took money from a man under house arrest.

The offender told authorities that he gave Thomas Darnell Aker more than $200 for extra time out of the house to work and see his family in Lexington in the summer of 2018.

Records show the man claimed he thought the money was being applied to his court fines and fees until Aker told him "you have to pay to play."

Officials said Aker used his personal cellphone to request the money.

Aker was put on temporary placement on July 20, 2018, during the investigation. He was dismissed from his position with the state on Jan. 24, 2019, based on "unacceptable personal conduct."

ABC11's newsgathering partner the News & Observer found that he worked in the Durham area.

Officials found that Aker, who started working with the agency on Sept. 7, 1993, had plenty of experience to know his actions were wrong and that he signed off on the agency's "no gift policy."

"... this agency has lost faith in your ability to represent the Department as a trustworthy professional and provide honest and truthful information," the dismissal letter states. "Your poor judgment described above indicated you cannot perform the essential functions of your job as a Probation/Parole Officer."

In the letter, Aker told officials he knew what he did was wrong, adding that he was in a "bad time" in his life and regrets his decision.

He is one of 30 state probation officers to be fired over inappropriate activities since 2016.

Erik Hooks, Secretary of the NC DPD, released the following statement:

"The great majority of officers carry out their duties professionally. However, the NC Department of Public Safety has no tolerance for illegal or inappropriate behaviors which tarnish the badge or undermine the sacred oath any of our officers take. We will continue to appropriately and unapologetically address those instances, as well as train our officers to identify and abate issues related to this topic. "
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