FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
THURSDAY - September 22, 2011
COMMERCIAL CONTRACTOR SENTENCED FOR BILKING
ABC BOARD OUT OF $43,860
RALEIGH - United States Attorney Thomas G. Walker announced that in federal court today United States District Judge James C. Dever III, sentenced LEE FITZGERALD COWPER, 59, of Wilmington, North Carolina, to three years’ probation. The Court also imposed a fine of $25,000.
A Criminal Information was filed on January 7, 2011. On February 7, 2011, COWPER pled guilty to mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341.
According to the Criminal Information, from 2004 to 2008, COWPER, a commercial builder, outbid other contractors for the construction of four ABC stores in the New Hanover County area. Specifically, on March 16, 2006, COWPER entered into a contract with the New Hanover ABC Board to build a new store in Porters Neck, North Carolina. In June, 2006, COWPER entered into an oral agreement with the New Hanover County ABC administrator, Billy Williams, to build a detached two-story garage on the administrator’s residential property for $100,000. Construction was completed on the garage on October 2, 2006. COWPER received two separate payments of $40,000 and $60,000 from the administrator. However, the total cost to COWPER for the garage was $143,148.
The Information further states that from October, 2006 to December, 2006, COWPER devised a scheme to defraud the ABC Board into overpaying him for the construction of the Porters Neck ABC store by falsifying and submitting a change order. The falsified order included fictitious work by a concrete and paving company for a driveway that overstated the amount of $43,860 to be paid to COWPER. On November 1, 2006, COWPER mailed the falsified invoice to the ABC Board for payment.
Williams was convicted by a state jury of obtaining money by false pretenses.
District Attorney Benjamin R. David of the Fifth District, along with Assistant District Attorney Tom Old, assisted the United States Attorney’s Office with this case. Investigation of this case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Ethan Ontjes represented the government.
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