Brittney Lofthouse – Staff Writer
Macon County was able to file an insurance claim of nearly $70,000 lost in 2014 when former Board of Elections Director Kim Bishop embezzled $67,705.06.
Macon County has received $67,705.06 from a claim paid by the North Carolina Risk Pool. Last week after a closed session of the Macon County of Board of Commissioners following the regular meeting, county attorney Chester Jones informed the board that the county will be compensated for funds lost in the embezzlement scheme.
According to Jones, before the case was handled in federal court, the county commenced a civil action against Bishop to seek recompense for money that she plead guilty to have taken.
“In the federal criminal prosecution, the county was able secure a restitution judgment of $68,705.06,” said Jones. “That was the good news, but the bad news was it was payable at the rate of $50 per month. A quick calculation suggests it would take about 114 years [for Bishop] to pay that off.”
In July 2016, Bishop was sentenced to six months in prison for her embezzlement scheme which caused the county to issue checks for more than $68,000. Bishop was also ordered to serve three years of supervised release, the first six months of which was to be served under home detention, and to pay $68,705.06 in restitution.
Jones submitted a claim through the North Carolina Risk Pool and was awarded a claim of $67,705.06, everything lost in the embezzlement scheme minus the $1,000 risk pool deductible. Jones stated the risk pool has now tentatively worked out a consent judgment in the civil case that was commenced by the county. Since the county has been paid for its claim, the board voted to sign off on the consent judgment in the civil case.
While the county received compensation from the NC Risk Pool, Bishop will still be responsible for paying back the full amount she embezzled.
“The NC Risk Pool has paid the county for its loss except for the county’s $1,000 deductible,” said Jones. “As a consequence, it is subrogated to the county’s position and is entitled to be paid the sums that the county would otherwise be entitled to under the Federal Court Judgment of Restitution as well as the State Court Consent Judgment to be entered. Bishop remains liable and is in no way excused from paying under the Federal Court Judgment for restitution and the State Court Consent Judgment to be entered but the monies paid by or collected from her will go to the NC Risk Pool with the exception of the first $1,000 dollars paid by Bishop on restitution. That sum will go to Macon County to cover its $1,000 deductible.”
According to a press release from the District Attorney’s office the day Bishop was sentenced, “Bishop abused the trust placed in her by the public. As a director on the Board of Elections, Bishop stole public money to enrich herself and her lifestyle. She is now a federally convicted felon, a title she earned through her greed and theft. Federal laws are very effective in addressing this type of corruption – let this be a message to other elected officials who may seek to violate the public’s trust through illegal activity,” said U.S. Attorney Rose.
According to information contained in filed plea documents and the sentencing hearing, from about 2002 to January 2014, Bishop served as director of the Board of Elections (BOE) for Macon County. In that capacity, Bishop had access to BOE’s expense budget and was authorized to initiate check requests to pay for BOE-related services. Beginning in about June 2013 and continuing through January 2014, court records show that Bishop submitted check request forms and caused checks to be issued to four individuals to supposedly pay for their work on behalf of BOE. BOE had not, in fact, approved these four individuals as BOE workers and they were not on the county’s payroll.
Bishop admitted in court that in order to cash these checks, on some occasions she forged the endorsement signature of the payee and signed her own name on the back of the checks, then cashed them at local financial institutions. On other occasions, court records show that two of the named payees would sign their names as endorsers, cash the checks and split the money with the defendant. In total, Bishop’s embezzlement scheme caused Macon County to issue checks for over $68,000. Bishop pleaded guilty in February 2016 to one count of federal program fraud.