Crime

Father of missing teen Erica Parsons found guilty of financial fraud

A federal jury in Winston-Salem found Sandy Parsons guilty of almost all the federal fraud charges against him Monday. But his court case – and his wife’s guilty plea on similar charges earlier this month – have yielded no clues about the disappearance of their adoptive daughter, Erica Parsons.

The federal charges against Sandy and Casey Parsons don’t directly address Erica’s missing person case, which gained national attention after she was reported missing July 30, 2013.

On Oct. 1, Casey Parsons, 39, admitted in court that she continued to collect government benefits after the girl disappeared, including monthly checks of $634 for adoption assistance. But her husband opted for a trial on many of the same charges, which started last week.

A spokesman for the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office wouldn’t say whether pressure from the criminal case led the Parsonses to say more about Erica’s disappearance.

“The investigation into the missing person’s case of Erica Parsons will certainly continue,” Rowan Sheriff’s Capt. John Sifford said in an email. “With this just occurring, it is too early to tell what impact this may have on the current investigation.”

Sifford said there have been no new developments in Erica’s case.

It’s unclear whether prosecutors or the Parsonses’ defense attorneys tried to use information about Erica’s disappearance as a bargaining chip in the federal case. James Wyatt, a Charlotte defense attorney, said if the Parsonses know more about Erica’s disappearance, they might not benefit by saying more to investigators in Rowan.

“It’s a situation where the defendant would have little to gain by cooperating,” Wyatt said. “I think the leverage here would be providing information that could lead to the solving of the state court crime, and these defendants may or may not have that knowledge or ability.

“If they do, it’s also possible that the prosecutors are not interested in cutting any deals,” Wyatt said.

Charlotte defense attorney George Laughrun said the Parsonses being found guilty could give prosecutors ammunition to charge the couple in connection with Erica’s disappearance – even if there’s no physical evidence of homicide or another crime.

“Clearly it (would be) a circumstantial evidence case, and they say that circumstantial evidence is only as strong as its weakest link, but this gives (prosecutors) one more link,” Laughrun said. “They knew she was not there and they tried to hide it by continuing to collect these benefits.”

Both Parsonses remain free pending sentencing. Casey Parsons will be sentenced Feb. 10. She faces a maximum of 199 years in prison and $3.75 million in fines.

Erica was last seen in November 2011 when she was 13, but her disappearance was not reported until July 2013. Her adoptive brother went to authorities after a fight with the Parsonses and said no one had seen Erica for 20 months. The Parsonses have said she went to live with her biological grandmother, Irene “Nan” Goodman, although they later said they may have been deceived. Investigators say Goodman didn’t exist.

A year after the missing person report was filed, FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents arrested the couple at their home in Fayetteville, where they had moved to avoid intense public scrutiny.

In addition to the monthly checks, the charges say the Parsonses also received federal and state funds for Medicaid, Social Security, and food and nutrition for Erica, who was home-schooled and had hearing problems and a learning disability, according to the July indictment.

During the trial, Sandy Parsons, 40, testified that he never saw any of the documents that were presented by the government in the case against him, according to WBTV, the Observer’s news partner. Sandy Parsons said his wife, Casey, handled anything that needed to be signed, such as tax documents, and when he was asked to sign them, he would.

“I ain’t never filed a tax – Casey fills them out,” he said, WBTV reported. “Casey said ‘sign this,’ so I signed it. … That’s why I got Casey. She takes care of me.” Staff writer Elisabeth Arriero and staff researcher Maria David contributed.

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