1 trooper loses job after Highway Patrol investigates ticket padding complaints

LILLINGTON, N.C. (WTVD) -- An investigation into irregular traffic tickets issued in Harnett County has resulted in one State Highway Patrol (SHP) trooper losing his job.

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As of July 8, Jason Benson, a nine-year veteran, is no longer employed by SHP.

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Trooper no longer employed as part of Highway Patrol probe

On Thursday, information on two other troopers came to light.

Trooper Christopher S. Carter, a five-year veteran, has been placed on administrative duty pending an ongoing investigation. First Sgt. Tracy Coleman (Carter's and Benson's supervisor in Harnett County) has been transferred to Cumberland County and relegated to administrative duty.

The State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) assigned a special agent to investigate whether state troopers are irregularly issuing citations to drivers, the second serious allegation against the SHP in less than three weeks.

A spokeswoman for the SBI said the inquiry is solely focused on the conduct of Troop B District VIII of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, which covers Harnett County.

Jason Benson (Source: State Highway Patrol)

Both the SBI and Harnett County District Attorney Vernon Stewart are spearheading the probe, which sources tell ABC11 began in June.

Specifically, ABC11 has learned that troopers may have "misrepresented citations" by adding additional penalties after the driver had already been issued a ticket.

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The driver, thus, wouldn't find out about those additional citations until traffic court or after missing payment deadlines.

The SBI would not elaborate on how many complaints it received from drivers or how many troopers are under investigation.

On June 28, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol confirmed an internal investigation into a "serious allegation" that may have compromised "the integrity of the promotional process."

Internal communications obtained by ABC11 and authenticated by the Highway Patrol also show the department has since suspended all promotions that were scheduled for this summer.

State Highway Patrol issued the following statement:

The State Highway Patrol has received several media inquiries related to an internal investigation of traffic ticket irregularities in Harnett County. The State Personnel Act prohibits the Highway Patrol from providing a detailed response to some of the questions posed. Nonetheless, the Highway Patrol can confirm irregularities were first discovered in Harnett County by an SHP supervisor during a weekly review of citations. Upon discovering these irregularities, the SHP immediately initiated an internal investigation. Due to the serious nature of these allegations, the SHP contacted both the Harnett County District Attorney and the State Bureau of Investigation, who are conducting independent investigations into this matter. The SHP internal investigation was focused on tickets issued by a single trooper who has subsequently been separated from the Highway Patrol. That same investigation, however, resulted in the discovery of additional evidence related to the possible involvement of another trooper which is now part of an ongoing investigation.
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