Four of six Cherryville men charged with offering to provide protection to trucks carrying stolen goods and cash pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court.
Three of the four pleading guilty Thursday had ties to law enforcement, including the Cherryville Police Department.
Pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to transport or receive stolen property and one count of conspiracy to extort under color of official right were:
• Wesley Clayton Golden, 39, a full-time Gaston County Sheriffs Office employee until February 2012, when he went on inactive reserve.
• Casey Justin Crawford, 32, a former Cherryville police officer.
• David Paul Mauney III, 23, a Cherryville police reserve officer.
Under the transportation conspiracy charge, they face a penalty of a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine; under the extortion conspiracy charge, they face a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction.
Also, Mark Ray Hoyle, 39, of Cherryville pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to transport or receive stolen property; conspiracy to extort under color of official right; and money laundering conspiracy.
He faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the transportation conspiracy charge; under the extortion conspiracy charge, a maximum of 20 years and a $250,000 fine or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction; and under the money laundering conspiracy charge, a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $500 fine or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction.
No date for sentencing has been scheduled.
Still facing charges are John Ashley Hendricks, 47, and Frankie Dellinger, 40, a former Cherryville Police reserve officer.
All the officers have been terminated.
The arrests came in October after FBI agents searched Cherryville Town Hall, the towns police department, a private residence and at least one vehicle.
After the arrests, Cherryville Police Chief Woody Burgess and Police Capt. Mike Allred were suspended with pay. Burgess resigned on Oct. 31.
Cherryville has been shaken by scandal in recent months. Before the six men were arrested, suspicion of credit-card misuse led one long-term employee of the town to resign and another to retire. The local rescue squad was shut down and the city manager fired.
Meanwhile, a new city manager has been hired, and Gaston County police are helping the town.