People in Carteret County are reacting to the news that their former sheriff is facing federal charges.
The U.S. Attorneys Office in Raleigh confirms that retired Carteret County Sheriff Ralph Thomas has been charged with conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States.
A spokeswoman tells WITN News that during his time as sheriff, Thomas was involved with the theft of federal funds. A former deputy, Christopher Cozart, was also named in a separate Bill of Information. The feds say Cozart was a detective in the county's drug unit.
According to court documents obtained by WITN, Thomas, Cozart and others are accused of stealing in excess of $5,000 in federal money.
The documents say on multiple occasions between 1997 and 2006, deputies under Thomas' supervision, withdrew funds designated for covert drug investigations. The feds say Thomas kept a portion of the cash for his own personal use. The document says other individuals likewise received misappropriated funds for personal use.
No other people were named in the Bill of Information which was dated Monday. Carteret County Chief Deputy Ken Raper says no current members of the sheriff's department were involved in the alleged scheme.
John Wetherington, a neighbor of the former sheriff, told WITN, "It's kind of unbelievable. I mean, he is such a good guy. I wouldn't ever think anything like that."
Thomas was first elected in 1986 and retired as sheriff at the end of 2006. Personnel records show that Cozart was a deputy from January 2000 to July 2007.