2 indicted, 34 cleared in Hoke County payroll fraud investigation

HOKE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- After months of investigations, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation found that there was not widespread payroll fraud in Hoke County. However, two former government employees were indicted for fraud.

In February 2017, SBI agents raided Hoke County offices and seized payroll records after auditors found irregularities in overtime pay for the county's sheriff's office and county government.

In a 40,000 page report to the District Attorney, the SBI found that the 34 individuals identified in the Cherry Bekaert report have been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing.

The SBI found no evidence to suggest that the overtime hours claimed by these individuals were illegal. The investigation showed that these individuals performed the work they were paid for.

The investigation also showed that four of the five sheriff's office employees identified by the original complainant did not engage in payroll fraud. Those 4 individuals were cleared of any criminal wrongdoing.

Related: Hoke County probe turning into a legal standoff

Still, the SBI did find evidence of criminal activity. On Dec. 12, the SBI presented its findings to a Hoke County Grand Jury.

After their presentation, the Grand Jury charged one former sheriff's office employee, Dedrick Graham, with 51 counts of Obtaining Property by False Pretenses, and one former county government employee, Latonya Benjamin, with 51 counts of Obtaining Property by False Pretenses and 51 counts of Accessing a Government Computer to Defraud.
There was no further evidence to suggest that any other individuals engaged in criminal conduct.

Graham and Benjamin surrendered to SBI agents Friday morning.
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