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Former Bladen Co. Fire Marshal pleads guilty to stealing money from county


ELIZABETHTOWN, NC (WWAY) -- The former Fire Marshal and director of Emergency Management Services for Bladen County has pleaded guilty to two felony counts of obtaining property by false pretense.

The District Attorney's Office says Mitchell Gerald Byrd of White Oak pleaded guilty Monday to charges that resulted from his intentional and fraudulent misuse of county funds. Prosecutors say Byrd used his position to access county money and to make unapproved purchases during his tenure as a county employee.

According to the DA, Byrd would make purchases under the false pretense that the items he was ordering were needed to supply county agencies. When he got the items, Byrd would then return the items to the vendor and receive either a voucher or a refund. Byrd would then use the voucher or refund to obtain non essential items that he would present as gifts or rewards to other county employees.

Investigators say the gifts included clothing, jewelry, statues, formal artwork and other items. Byrd was first questioned about the purchases by the county manager and county commissioners as early as 2007.

A formal investigation was called for by former Bladen County Sheriff Stephen Bunn, and agents from the State Bureau of Investigation met with county officials in September of 2009. A Bladen County Grand Jury returned several indictments against Byrd on September 6, 2011.

Byrd pleaded to two counts of obtaining property by false pretense as part of a plea agreement in which he agreed to pay restitution in the amount of $6000.00 to the County of Bladen on the date of his plea. Byrd was sentenced to two consecutive sentences of a minimum of five months and a maximum of six months in prison. Those sentences were suspended and Byrd was placed on unsupervised probation for a term of 24 months.

The judge signed an additional order in which the Bladen County Sheriff will hold a public sale of all the items that were seized in the investigation. The proceeds of the sale of these items will go to the Board of Education for the use and benefit of the public school system.

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