A former Cherryville reserve police officer and a former Gaston County Sheriff’s Office employee charged in connection with a corruption scandal that rocked the city in 2012 received prison sentences in federal court on Wednesday.
A third defendant who was not a law enforcement officer was also sentenced to prison.
All three had previously pleaded guilty to various charges stemming from a scandal authorities said involved offers of protection to trucks carrying stolen goods and cash. Of the six men entering guilty pleas, four had ties to law enforcement in Gaston County.
The defendants sentenced Wednesday were given credit for the 16 months they have already served in jail.
U.S. District Judge Robert Conrad sentenced Frankie Dellinger, a former Cherryville reserve police officer, to 36 months in prison. Dellinger had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport or receive stolen property, conspiracy to extort under color of official right and money laundering.
Former Gaston County Sheriff’s office employee Wesley Golden was sentenced to 20 months in prison. He had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport or receive stolen property and conspiracy to extort under color of official right.
Mark Hoyle of Cherryville, who was not an officer but posed as one, was sentenced to 21 months in prison. He had entered a guilty plea to conspiracy to transport or receive stolen property; conspiracy to extort under color of official right and money laundering conspiracy.
In November, two former Cherryville police officers charged in the scheme were also sentenced to prison for their roles. A third Gaston County man who was charged in the case received two years’ probation.
The Gaston County town of Cherryville became the center of national attention in October 2012 when FBI agents began the roundup of those involved in the conspiracy.
In January 2013, former Cherryville Finance Director Bonny Alexander was charged with embezzling more than $435,000 from the city. A former city customer service representative was also charged with embezzling. Both have pleaded guilty, but have not been sentenced.
Also awaiting sentencing is former Cherryville Police Chief Woody Burgess, who has pleaded guilty to embezzlement.
On Wednesday, each man sentenced stood up in court and expressed remorse for his actions.
On Thursday, Dellinger faced Judge Conrad and read a prepared statement, saying, “I don’t deny any of the stuff in the newspapers. I did what I did.”
At the time of the scandal, “I was in a very dark place personally, professionally and, especially, financially,” Dellinger said.
Dellinger, a law enforcement officer for nearly 20 years, told the judge: “I knew the difference in right and wrong. I am truly sorry for the disappointment and embarrassment I brought to my family, my friends and my community.”
While Dellinger said he “hated every minute at the Mecklenburg County jail,” the experience has changed his life.
“If this hadn’t happened, I couldn’t have stepped back and taken an objective look at my life,” he said. “I believe I’m a better man today. I’ve forged new relationships. And I have a relationship with my Lord and Savior – and I didn’t have that before.”
At one point, as Dellinger’s voice choked, he said, “I’ve been very humbled by this whole experience. ... I’d like to move on and I accept what I’ve done.”
Cherryville Police Chief Chad Hawkins read a statement on behalf of the city. The FBI arrests on Oct. 17, 2012, “diminished the public trust in the honest, hardworking people in the police department,” he said. As a result of the conspiracy, “dozens of cases were dismissed in the Gaston County criminal system and made the task police face every day harder than it already is,” Hawkins said.
Golden, who is also a 20-year law enforcement veteran, apologized to his family, friends and community and said a “bad decision” had brought him to the courtroom that day.
Prosecutors said Golden was less culpable than some of the other defendants and said he had cooperated with investigators.
Hoyle’s lawyer, Larry Hewitt, said that while his client has been in jail, he has completed 25 to 30 study courses “in an effort to better himself.”
A father and husband, Hoyle lost his insurance business in 2008 and in looking for ways to survive, fell into the conspiracy scheme, Hewitt said.
“His motivation wasn’t being a criminal,” said Hewitt. “He was motivated by making money to support himself and his family.”
But Hewitt called the decision a “grievous and serious mistake.”
Hoyle was the first defendant to assist prosecutors, Hewitt said.
Hoyle, appearing nervous, apologized “to my county, community and family, especially my two precious daughters.”
“I’ve watched them suffer with my decision,” he said. “I’ll never forgive myself for putting my kids through that situation.”