Spring Lake finance director indicted on embezzlement, bank fraud and identity theft charges

The Town of Spring Lake welcome sign in shown in this undated file photo.

RALEIGH — A former Spring Lake finance director was indicted earlier this month on charges of embezzlement, bank fraud and identity theft related to the misappropriation of over a half-million dollars from the town. 

According to a press release issued by Michael Easley, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, the indictment alleges Gay Cameron Tucker, 63, of Fayetteville, embezzled over $500,000 from the Town of Spring Lake while she was the town’s finance director and accounting technician.  

Tucker embezzled funds through fraudulent checks using forged signatures of the mayor and town manager, the indictment alleges.

“City government officials are entrusted to spend taxpayer funds on public needs – not their own,” Easley said in the press release. “Our prosecutors and law enforcement partners are committed to vigorously investigating all allegations of public corruption.”

Under the indictment, Tucker is charged with one count of embezzlement from a local government receiving federal funds, four counts of bank fraud, and two counts of aggravated identity theft. Easley’s statement indicated the charges carry a maximum prison sentence for embezzlement of 10 years, 30 years for bank fraud, and the aggravated identity theft charge “is not less than, nor more than 2 years in prison consecutive to any other sentence imposed.”  

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating the case and Assistant U.S. Attorney William M. Gilmore is prosecuting the case,” according to Easley’s June 10 statement. 

A state audit published in March of 2022 revealed over $430,000 in taxpayer funds were spent for personal use in the town of Spring Lake.  The findings of the audit were sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigations as well as the State Bureau of Investigation for potential criminal investigation. 

Similarly, a state audit published in 2016 found $568,979 in questionable purchases and fiscal mismanagement.  

Continued issues with the town’s management resulted in the state’s Local Government Commission (LGC) taking control the town’s finances last October. As recently as this past April, the LGC issue a letter to the mayor of Spring Lake and its Board of Aldermen over concerns involving a lack of compliance with state laws and reluctance to work with LGC staff.  

“It’s sad relief. Sad that this has happened to the taxpayers of Spring Lake now for the second time and relief that finally law enforcement is taking these matters seriously,” N.C. State Treasurer Dale Folwell said of the U.S. Department of Justice’s announcement of the indictment. 

“This has always been a concern of mine, not only as the state treasurer and chairman of the Local Government Commission, but chairman of the state retirement board,” said Folwell. “Until someone gets convicted of a crime of this nature we can’t take their pension away from them, and this indictment is the first step toward doing that.” 

In a press statement, Folwell said the case “highlights the need for legislative action to help prevent future abuses in state and local government,” and that weak financial controls make local governments vulnerable to abuse. 

In his statement, Folwell pointed to Senate Bill 265, the Bond Info Transparency/LGC Toolkit II, as a way to prevent future abuse. 

 “We don’t ask for any legislation we don’t need, and we sincerely hope when we ask for it we never have to use it. We hope that we would never have to do a sales tax recapture,” Folwell said. 

“One provision in there is that after a certain period of time if audits are not turned in on a timely basis as required that the city or county’s sales tax refund can be withheld,” Folwell said of the bill.

“For the state of North Carolina to require people to do audits and then there’s no consequence for failure to meet that obligation is also unacceptable,” Folwell said. “The fact is that the right types of audits could have caught these types of violations hundreds of thousands of dollars ago.”