RALEIGH, NC (NEWS RELEASE) - United States Attorney George E.B. Holding announced that in federal court today LEE FITZGERALD COWPER, 59, of Wilmington, North Carolina, pled guilty before United States District Judge James C. Dever III, to mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341.
Mr. Holding commented, "The defendant’s corruption cheated the taxpayers of New Hanover County and now he must pay for his crime."
A Criminal Information was filed on January 7, 2011. 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 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.
It is alleged in the Information 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.
At sentencing, set for May 16, 2011, COWPER faces up to 20 years imprisonment followed by up to three years’ supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. As stipulated in the Plea Agreement, COWPER also agrees to make restitution to the ABC Board in the amount of $43,860.
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.