FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wednesday - March 3, 2004
GREENVILLE - United States Attorney Frank D. Whitney announced that LINDA JOHNSON SAUNDERS, 44, of Greensboro, N. C.; BOBBY C. McLAMB, 43, of Raleigh, N. C., and MICHAEL EUGENE BLANTON, 44, of Fuquay-Varina, N. C., were sentenced in federal court in Greenville on Wednesday, March 3, 2004. U. S. District Judge Malcolm J. Howard imposed the following sentences:
SAUNDERS--three months of imprisonment, 270 days of home confinement, and two years of supervised release.
McLAMB-16 months of imprisonment, two years of supervised release, and a fine of $1,000.00.
BLANTON--12 months and one day of imprisonment, two years of supervised release, and a fine of $1,000.00.
Immediately following the sentencing hearings, the defendants were taken into custody by the Untied States Marshals Service. They will serve the active portions of their sentences in federal institutions, which will be designated by the U. S. Bureau of Prisons.
Pursuant to plea agreements with the United States Attorney's Office:
SAUNDERS pled guilty on May 12, 2003 to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, and to structure financial transactions; two counts of extortion of funds "under color of official right;" two counts of money laundering; and one count of structuring financial transactions to avoid the filing of a Currency Transaction Report.
McLAMB pled guilty on March 31, 2003, to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, and to structure financial transactions, and one count of extortion "under color of official right."
BLANTON pled guilty on September 23, 2003, to one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice and to commit witness tampering.
SAUNDERS and McLAMB were indicted by a federal grand jury in Raleigh on March 10, 2003, on charges related to the Meg Scott Phipps Campaign 2000 for Commissioner of Agriculture. According to the indictment, McLAMB, after losing to Phipps in the Democratic primary in August, 2000, supported Phipps in the general election and later became Assistant Commissioner of Agriculture. SAUNDERS served as the treasurer of the Phipps Campaign and was appointed Special Assistant to the Commissioner of Agriculture following the election.
BLANTON was indicted by a federal grand jury in Raleigh on June 6, 2003, also on charges related to the Meg Scott Phipps Campaign 2000 for Commissioner of Agriculture. According to the indictment, he participated in a cover-up by helping alter documents produced to the North Carolina Board of Elections; by helping persuade SAUNDERS to lie to the North Carolina Board of Elections and to investigators; by lying to investigators himself; and by lying to the grand jury investigating the matter. BLANTON was hired as Public Affairs Manager for the Department of Agriculture in May 2001, promoted to Assistant Commissioner of Agriculture in February 2002, and again promoted to Deputy Commissioner of Agriculture in early 2003.
Meg Scott Phipps was sentenced in Greenville on Tuesday, March 2, 2004, to 48 months imprisonment, a fine of $25,000.00, and a supervised release term of two years. Also, she forfeited $25,000.00 to the United States. Two additional defendants in the investigation, Norman Y. Chambliss III (charged with obstruction of justice) and Weldon B. Denny (charged with making false statements to the FBI), are scheduled for arraignment on Monday, April 5, 2004, in Greenville.
The investigation in this case has been ongoing for approximately 20 months and has been 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, Jr. 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.
News releases are available on the U. S. Attorney's web page at www.usdoj.gov/usao/nce within 48 hours of release.