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ABC Board is under FBI investigation

The FBI has begun a criminal investigation of Mecklenburg County's ABC Board, WCNC reported Wednesday night.

The probe follows the resignation in May of the board's chief law enforcement officer. Bill Cox resigned a month after he was suspended amid questions over how he handled violations reported by his agents.

According to WCNC, the Observer's news partner, agents who worked for Cox complained he reduced or dismissed ABC violations against some bars. In an Observer interview, Cox blamed allegations on “vindictive” former associates at the board.

“It's all drummed-up information,” he said. “I don't think they'd find anything because I know we didn't do anything wrong.”

Mecklenburg ABC board members met behind closed doors Tuesday to discuss what was cited as “alleged criminal misconduct.” The station reported the board hired former Charlotte-Mecklenburg deputy police chief Bob Schurmeier, who is now with a private security firm, to conduct an investigation.

WCNC cited unnamed law enforcement sources as saying that a federal grand jury had issued a subpoena for ABC records.

The board's CEO, Calvin McDougal, could not be reached.

Local ABC boards operate the state's liquor stores and answer to local elected leaders, such as county commissioners. The boards are independent of the state ABC Commission. When a local board finds a violation, however, it's sent to the state commission to be judged and potentially punished.

In March, McDougal told the Observer an ABC board agent, Robert Bates, had complained in 2006 that Cox had reduced or quashed charges of ABC code violations Bates had filed against two businesses, including the Uptown Cabaret.

The Cabaret was represented by attorney Dennis Guthrie, who also handled Cox's divorce. McDougal said at the time that he found no evidence to back up the allegations.

Guthrie said he hasn't been contacted by investigators:

“They haven't called me,” he said, “and you'd think if I were involved or if I had knowledge about Cox, I'd be one of the first people they talk with.” Staff writer Mark Johnson contributed.

The FBI has begun a criminal investigation of Mecklenburg County's ABC Board, WCNC reported Wednesday night.

The probe follows the resignation in May of the board's chief law enforcement officer. Bill Cox resigned a month after he was suspended amid questions over how he handled violations reported by his agents.

According to WCNC, the Observer's news partner, agents who worked for Cox complained he reduced or dismissed ABC violations against some bars. In an Observer interview, Cox blamed allegations on “vindictive” former associates at the board.

“It's all drummed-up information,” he said. “I don't think they'd find anything because I know we didn't do anything wrong.”

Mecklenburg ABC board members met behind closed doors Tuesday to discuss what was cited as “alleged criminal misconduct.” The station reported the board hired former Charlotte-Mecklenburg deputy police chief Bob Schurmeier, who is now with a private security firm, to conduct an investigation.

WCNC cited unnamed law enforcement sources as saying that a federal grand jury had issued a subpoena for ABC records.

The board's CEO, Calvin McDougal, could not be reached.

Local ABC boards operate the state's liquor stores and answer to local elected leaders, such as county commissioners. The boards are independent of the state ABC Commission. When a local board finds a violation, however, it's sent to the state commission to be judged and potentially punished.

In March, McDougal told the Observer an ABC board agent, Robert Bates, had complained in 2006 that Cox had reduced or quashed charges of ABC code violations Bates had filed against two businesses, including the Uptown Cabaret.

The Cabaret was represented by attorney Dennis Guthrie, who also handled Cox's divorce. McDougal said at the time that he found no evidence to back up the allegations.

Guthrie said he hasn't been contacted by investigators:

“They haven't called me,” he said, “and you'd think if I were involved or if I had knowledge about Cox, I'd be one of the first people they talk with.” Staff writer Mark Johnson contributed.

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