A police chief and a lieutenant in Southport, NC were arrested on July 26 for conspiracy to obtain property by false pretenses, willful failure to discharge duties, and obstruction of justice. The arrests stem from a joint investigation by the FBI and the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI). The two cops are charged with double-dipping at a second job while on the clock at the police department
Now all police operations in Southport have been suspended and the entire force has been placed on paid administrative leave.
WFMY News reports, Southport Police Department Chief Gary Smith, 46, and Lt. Michael Christian Simmons, 48, lied on police time sheets stating they were at work, but in actuality they were not even at the police department, instead they were working at a trucking company driving trucks which was their second job. On April 4 law enforcement officers tipped off investigators about the two high ranking cops.
According to District Attorney Jon David, Smith and Simmons were driving overnight shifts for an unnamed local trucking company during the same hours they had claimed on their daily activity reports for the police department. Apparently they had been getting away with the fraud for months before anyone was brave enough to blow the whistle on the police leaders.
David said Smith and Simmons’ duties for the trucking company routinely required them to be out of town and even out of the county.
Smith was taken into custody Thursday morning and booked into the Brunswick County Detention Center under a $10,000 unsecured bond. He was later released after posting bail.
Simmons was taken into custody during Thursday afternoon’s news conference announcing the results of the investigation.
Multiple search warrants were executed Thursday at the police department, town hall, and the trucking company.
Mayor Jerry Dove had this to say concerning the investigation:
“It is indeed that I get before you today with a heart laden with grief for all these events that happened today. It was a shock to me to hear all these, being a former chief and knowing the officers that worked in that department and hired at least half of them.”
Given that the entire Southport Police Department has been put on administrative leave, the city of Southport has now given the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office power over all law enforcement functions within the city until further notice.
District Attorney David says:
“We will be relying on (the sheriff’s office) substantially on the road ahead to step into the void and provide a police presence. The sheriff’s office already has overlapping jurisdiction with Southport. It’s not new that they would be patrolling these streets. They know the lay of the land and I’m very confident that citizens will be well protected.”
The sheriff’s office will aid the District Attorney’s Office if any pending Southport cases need additional investigating because they weren’t properly handled, David said.
David also said his office has a process in place to systematically review those cases and to ensure that they stand on firm footing.