News and Press Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

MONDAY - May 3, 2010

FORMER CARTERET COUNTY SHERIFF AND DEPUTY PLEAD GUILTY

RALEIGH - United States Attorney George E.B. Holding announced that today former Sheriff RALPH THOMAS, 60, of Beaufort, North Carolina, and CHRISTOPHER COZART, 35, of Morehead City, North Carolina, pled guilty before United States Magistrate Judge David W. Daniel to charges relating to the misuse of county drug funds. THOMAS pled to conspiring to commit an offense against the United States, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, while COZART pled to misprision of a felony, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 4.

On April 29, 2010, separate Superseding Criminal Informations were filed charging each defendant.

From 1997 to 2006, THOMAS, then Sheriff of Carteret County, stole funds that were designated for the use of covert drug investigations. After drug funds were cashed, THOMAS would take a portion of the funds (often as much as 25-50% for his own use). In 2006, COZART, a drug detective with the Sheriff’s department, provided drug funds to be given to THOMAS, knowing a portion of those funds would be embezzled and stolen. Despite COZART’s knowledge of the embezzlement, he took no actions to report it to law enforcement or any civil authority.

Mr. Holding commented, “The use of public funds for personal gain is a breach of the public’s trust and it is saddening to see elected public officials veer from an honest course. We will continue to make these cases a top priority.”

“Abuse of power is an insidious disease that eats away at the public’s trust in law enforcement. These men took oaths to enforce laws they didn’t respect, and now they must atone for their actions,” said Owen D. Harris, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in North Carolina. “The FBI and our law enforcement partners won’t allow those who are entrusted to protect and serve get away with breaking the law. The State Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service were instrumental in this case and truly made it a joint investigation.”

Special Agent in Charge Jeannine A. Hammett IRS-Criminal Investigation stated, “When public officials choose to betray the public trust by using public resources for private gain, they simply must, and will be, held accountable for their misdeeds.”

"We count on law enforcement officers to uphold the law and protect the public, not break the law to line their pockets at public expense. Our SBI agents will continue to work closely with federal officials to stop corruption at all levels of government," stated Attorney General Roy Cooper.

The maximum penalty THOMAS faces is up to five years’ imprisonment followed by up to one year supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000.00. The maximum penalty COZART faces is up to three years’ imprisonment followed by up to one year supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000.00.

Investigation of this case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigative Division, and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorneys J. Frank Bradsher and David Bragdon handled the case for the United States.

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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