A former Carteret County sheriff and a former deputy have pleaded guilty in federal court.
Former Sheriff Ralph Thomas and former Deputy Chris Cozart made the pleas Monday in Greenville.
The two were indicted in March for stealing federal drug money.
Thomas pleaded to conspiring to commit an offense against the United States, while Cozart pleaded to misprision of a felony.
The maximum Thomas faces is up to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000.00. The maximum penalty Cozart faces is up to three years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000.00. Cozart's attorney says his client has agreed to testify for the government.
The feds say from 1997 to 2006, Thomas stole funds that were designated for covert drug investigations. They say after drug funds were cashed, the sheriff would take a portion of the funds, often as much as 50%, for his own use.
The U.S. Attorney's Office says Cozart, who was a drug detective, provided drug funds to be given to Thomas, knowing a portion of
those funds would be embezzled. The feds say Cozart did nothing about it and never reported the crime to law enforcement.
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. Thomas & Cozart will be sentenced in August.
Last month three other former deputies were indicted for similar crimes.
Frank Galizia, Boyce Floyd, Jr. and Mark Farlow were indicted on charges of conspiring to embezzle and intentionally misapply drug funds along with aiding and abetting the embezzlement of those funds.
Galizia was chief deputy and unsuccessfully ran for sheriff in 2006. Floyd was a drug and property crimes detective, who also ran for sheriff, and Farlow worked as a drug detective. The three will be arraigned in June.