CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Barry Bryan Edwards, 65, of Hickory, N.C. appeared in federal court today and pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy for accepting kickbacks and bribes from a private contractor, announced Dena J. King, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.
Robert R. Wells, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Charlotte Division, and Robert Schurmeier, Director of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) join U.S. Attorney King in making today’s announcement.
According to filed plead documents and today’s plea hearing, from 2012 to 2018, Edwards and an unnamed individual identified in court documents as the Contractor, devised a bribery and kickback scheme involving Catawba County (the County) government contracts. As Edwards admitted in court today, as Director of Utilities and Engineering, Edwards had the authority to review and award on behalf of the County government contracts to private businesses for engineering and consulting activities related to the County’s landfill, solid waste and natural gas projects, among others. As court documents show, Edwards admitted to awarding contracts to three businesses associated with the Contractor, all while receiving gifts and other things of value that influenced his decisions, including expensive meals, tickets to sporting events, and wine-tasting tours, totaling more than $30,000.
Edwards pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge David C. Keesler and was released on bond. The wire fraud conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
In making today’s announcement U.S. Attorney King thanked the SBI and the FBI for their investigation of the case.
Assistant United States Attorney Don Gast of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville is in charge of the prosecution.