A former Cherryville reserve police officer pleaded guilty to conspiracy and extortion in connection with a corruption scandal that embroiled the city last fall.
Frankie Dellinger, 41, was the last of six men to enter guilty pleas in a scandal authorities say involved offers of protection to trucks carrying stolen goods and cash. Four of the men had ties to law enforcement in Gaston County.
Dellinger will be sentenced at a later date.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation began looking into Dellinger after receiving information in 2011 that he had engaged in illegal activities involving the misuse of his public office, according to court documents. At the time, Dellinger was a full-time police officer in Cherryville.
FBI agents posed as people selling vehicles and goods stolen outside of North Carolina.
Authorities say Dellinger responded to a request from an undercover agent who was seeking protection in exchange for cash and stolen goods. Dellinger later recruited two other men to participate in the scheme, according to an indictment.
Dellinger and two other men received more than $17,000 in cash and purportedly stolen high-definition TVs in exchange for following what they believed to be tractor-trailer loads of stolen goods. The trucks traveled across multiple areas in Gaston and Cleveland counties, as well as in Charlotte and to cities in South Carolina, according to the indictment.
The men agreed to use their credentials as law enforcement officers to protect the goods and cash from being detected by other authorities and from theft, court documents show.
The FBI arrested Dellinger and the other men last October after a search of the Cherryville Town Hall, the police department, a private residence and at least one vehicle.
On Thursday, Dellinger pleaded guilty in a federal courtroom to one count of conspiracy to transport or receive stolen property, two counts of conspiracy to extort under color of official right and a final count of money laundering conspiracy.
Dellinger was first hired by the Cherryville Police Department in December 2002 but was laid off as a full-time officer in mid-2012 because of budget cuts. He then became a reserve officer but was terminated after his arrest.
News Researcher Maria David contributed.