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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Friday - June 6, 2003

Raleigh - Frank D. Whitney, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, announced today the indictment of MICHAEL EUGENE BLANTON, 44, of Fuquay-Varina, N. C., on various charges related to the investigation of the Meg Scott Phipps Campaign 2000 for Commissioner of Agriculture. A federal grand jury sitting here returned the indictment today.

According to the indictment, in May 2001, BLANTON was hired as Public Affairs Manager for the Department of Agriculture. In approximately February 2002, BLANTON was promoted to Assistant Commissioner, and in early 2003, BLANTON was again promoted to Deputy Commissioner of Agriculture.

BLANTON is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice and witness tampering; one count of obstruction of justice; two counts of witness tampering; two counts of making a false statement to a federal agency, specifically, the FBI; and four counts of perjury in testimony before the federal grand jury investigating this matter.

According to the indictment, BLANTON was involved in an effort to cover up the involvement of Amusements of America in funding a $75,000.00 loan to Bobby McLamb, then a candidate for Commissioner of Agriculture, as well as the Phipps' campaign payments on the amount due on McLamb's indebtedness.

The indictment is the second one returned by the grand jury investigating this matter. The investigation has been ongoing for about 11 months and has been conducted jointly by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, and the IRS-Criminal Investigation, in conjunction with the United States Attorney's Office and the office of Wake County District Attorney C. Colon Willoughby, Jr. The Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division of the U. S. Department of Justice has also played a role in the investigation. Assistant U. S. Attorney Dennis M. Duffy and Executive Assistant U. S. Attorney John Stuart Bruce are handling the case for the government.

U. S. Attorney Whitney stated, "The agencies that are conducting this investigation are to be commended. This office and the U. S. Department of Justice remain committed to investigating all credible allegations of public corruption." Whitney also cautioned that the new indictment does not allege wrongdoing by any individual other than BLANTON.

An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. The defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. A trial date has not been scheduled.

The investigation is continuing.

News releases are available on the U. S. Attorney's web page at www.usdoj.gov/usao/nce within 48 hours of release.

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