Lake Norman & Mooresville

Ex-Iredell officer pleads guilty

A former Iredell County Sheriff's Office captain pleaded guilty this morning to claiming he earned a college degree that he never received.

The U.S. Justice Department said Mark Stephen McCollum, 51, of Mooresville, entered the plea in U.S. District Court. He had been charged with theft from a government program.

A sentencing date has not been set, but McCollum faces up to 10 years in prison; a fine of up to $250,000; and as much as three years of supervised release. He also agreed to pay $8,323 in restitution to Iredell County.

According to court documents, McCollum worked with the sheriff's office from August 1987 until he resigned in December. Prosecutors say that beginning in 1999, the Iredell County Sheriff's Office had a policy in which employees who completed post-secondary degree programs would be eligible for salary increases – and that employees earning four-year degrees would receive a 5 percent pay hike.

Prosecutors say McCollum claimed he had earned a bachelor of arts degree from Pfeiffer College, and he began receiving a 5 percent pay increase in August 2005. Prosecutors say the diploma was fictitious, and that McCollum never earned a four-year degree from any college or university.