Fraud charges in Gaston case

Two people have been charged in connection with allegations of mismanagement and fraud at a Gaston County job retraining program, authorities said today.

The charges followed a 2 1/2 month investigation by Gaston County Police of the Workforce Investment Act Program that provides retraining for people who have been laid off or displaced.

According to Sgt. Chris Reynolds, former local area program director Julie Miller Armstrong of Lincolnton faces 30 charges of obtaining signature by false pretenses, 27 charges of aiding and abetting obtaining property by false pretenses and one charge of felony conspiracy.

Armstrong resigned from the position in July, according to Gaston County Social Services Director Keith Moon.

Armstrong's son, James Michael Armstrong of Lincolnton, faces 27 charges of obtaining property by false pretenses and one charge of felony conspiracy.

Reynolds said James Armstrong received benefits for several years before he was accepted into the program. The amount was about $18,000, Reynolds said.

Julie and James Armstrong were each placed under a $20,000 unsecured bond.

Reynolds said police probed the program's records and interviewed more than 20 people before conferring with District Attorney Locke Bell on charges.

“It was an exhaustive investigation,” Reynolds said.

Workforce is a state Department of Commerce program administered in Gaston County by DSS. The annual budget is about $3.4 million and there are 22 employees.

“I'm glad the investigation is over,” Moon said. “It (Workforce) is a very important program that serves a lot of people. We've had a seasoned DSS administrator working in the program since this issue came to light. We've looked at all procedures and tightened up in areas that led to this situation being possible.”