Tobacco broker gets
5 years for fraud
RALEIGH (AP) — A North Carolina tobacco broker will spend 51/2 years in federal prison and must repay more than $13 million for cheating the federal crop insurance program.
U.S. District Judge James Dever on Thursday sentenced Jesse Ray “Tommy” Faulkner of Southern Pines. The 54-year-old pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy in an agreement with prosecutors.
Prosecutors say he paid North Carolina and Kentucky farmers and middlemen cash for tobacco, allowing the farmers an opportunity to also collect insurance payments for plants they claimed were damaged or destroyed.
The case comes as federal investigators break up a massive scheme by dozens of eastern North Carolina insurance agents, claims adjusters, brokers and farmers to steal at least $100 million from the government-backed crop insurance program.
Sweepstakes industry pushing for legality
RALEIGH (AP) — North Carolina’s crippled video sweepstakes industry says it will keep asking lawmakers and Gov. Pat McCrory to consider legislation to regulate and tax their games despite a gambling scandal in Florida.
The Coalition for Electronic Sweepstakes says the events in Florida involved a small percentage of that state’s sweepstakes industry and reinforced why strict regulation is needed.
The North Carolina Supreme Court upheld a ban on the games in December. Many outlets closed, but some said they would try to alter games to remain legal. The coalition said this week sweepstakes parlors and cafes generated thousands of jobs.
Senate wants to OK its budget by mid-May
RALEIGH (AP) — A top Senate budget-writer says Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposal this week for North Carolina government spending is a good start but says the General Assembly now must draw up its plan with the potential input of 170 different legislators.
Sen. Pete Brunstetter of Forsyth County on Thursday laid out the next steps for getting a two-year state budget to McCrory that he can sign before the new fiscal year begins July 1.
Brunstetter says both chambers will determine spending targets. The Senate will pass its own version of the budget by mid-May, soon after April 15 tax collection numbers are released. Then the House will pass its own version, setting up a conference committee to work out differences.
Fort Bragg looking into death of paratrooper
FAYETTEVILLE (AP) Authorities at Fort Bragg are investigating the death of a paratrooper who was found unresponsive in his barracks last weekend and later died.
The base said Wednesday that 21-year-old Spc. Robert P. Wasser of Marysville, Wash., was a military police officer with the 82nd Airborne Division. The base says he was found unresponsive in his barracks Saturday morning and later pronounced dead. The cause of the death has not been determined.
Wasser joined the Army in April of 2010 and was deployed to Afghanistan from June to September of that year.