FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Monday - June 7, 2004
GREENVILLE - United States Attorney Frank D. Whitney announced that MORRIS VIVONA, JR. pled guilty in federal court in Greenville on Monday, June 7, 2004, to a felony relating to the investigation of the Meg Scott Phipps Campaign 2000 for Commissioner of Agriculture.
A criminal information filed by the United States Attorney's Office on June 3, 2004, charged VIVONA with obstruction of justice in connection with the federal grand jury investigation in 2002 and 2003. The information alleged that VIVONA, 45, of Vecona, New Jersey, colluded with Norman Y. Chambliss, III in order to impede the Government's investigation and provided false statements to law enforcement assisting the grand jury investigation. Chambliss previously pled guilty to the same charge.
U.S. District Judge Malcolm J. Howard tentatively has scheduled sentencing for the September 7, 2004 term of court in Greenville. VIVONA could receive a maximum sentence of 10 years' imprisonment, a fine of $250,000.00, and a supervised release term of three years.
This case resulted from an investigation conducted jointly by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, in conjunction with the United States Attorney's Office and the Office of Wake County District Attorney C. Colon Willoughby. The Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice 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.
The United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina and Amusements of America have agreed in principle to enter into a Corporate Compliance Agreement. Under the agreement, Amusements of America will be monitored for 18 months by the U.S. Attorney's Office and the U.S. Probation Office for compliance with laws and ethical standards in the operation of its business. If the agreement is finalized and adhered to, there will be no criminal charges brought against Amusements of America as a corporate entity by the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina in connection with the investigation of the Meg Scott Phipps campaign and her administration as Commissioner of Agriculture.
Mr. Whitney said, "With today's guilty plea and Amusements of America's Corporate Compliance Agreement, we can announce that the investigation is complete. Barring unforeseen developments, there will be no further criminal charges brought by our office." All that remains in federal court are the sentencings of Norman Y. Chambliss III, Weldon B. Denny, and Morris Vivona, Jr.
Mr. Whitney commented, "We believe this is the most successful public corruption prosecution in North Carolina history." Seven people have been convicted of felonies in federal court, five of whom were high ranking state officials. Former Commissioner of Agriculture Meg Scott Phipps was found guilty following a jury trial in state court and pled guilty in federal court. One additional person pled guilty in state court and is awaiting sentencing. Whitney further stated, "This case has been a model of federal/state cooperation. The District Attorney's Office, the FBI, and the SBI are to be commended for getting the job done without worrying who got the credit. The citizens of North Carolina have been well-served by the agencies involved."
News releases are available on the U. S. Attorney's web page at www.usdoj.gov/usao/nce within 48 hours of release.