Former Cherryville Police Chief Woody Burgess appeared in federal court in Charlotte on Tuesday and pleaded guilty to embezzlement.
Federal prosecutors said that for nearly a year the veteran lawman had instructed the city’s then-finance director to issue checks to buy firearms from a sporting goods store for his personal use.
The former police chief embezzled more than $11,000 in nine checks, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced on Monday.
Burgess has said the purchases were to make up for “compensatory time.” But authorities say Burgess knew he wasn’t allowed to get cash payments.
Burgess, 60, served as Cherryville’s police chief for about a decade and had previously served as an officer in the department.
In October, he was suspended and he later retired after FBI agents rounded up six men, including three Cherryville officers and a Gaston County sheriff’s deputy. They were accused of providing protection to trucks carrying stolen goods and cash. They have all pleaded guilty.
After Tuesday’s first court appearance and plea hearing, Burgess was released on $25,000 unsecured bond.
“Mr. Burgess accepts responsibility for his involvement in this,” said his lawyer, Melissa Owen. “He is very remorseful for accepting payment for overtime and vacation that he was not authorized to accept.”
She said this was “a very difficult time for him and his family.”
Burgess faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both. No sentencing date has been set.
Meanwhile, Owen said Burgess will be “spending time with his family, doing volunteer work and giving back to the community.”
Citing Burgess’ need for privacy, she declined to be specific about the type of volunteer work.
Also caught up in the scandal was Former Cherryville Finance Director Bonny Alexander, who was accused of stealing more then $450,000 from the city. She has pleaded guilty to five counts of embezzlement. She faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count. A sentencing date hasn’t been set.
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