November 09, 2019 | Government Fraud
NC Wife-Hiring Conspiracy Exposed: Former State Employee Who Blew Whistle on Two Disgraced NC District Attorneys Awarded $1.8 Million by Jury
While state prosecutors have broad authority and enjoy vast administrative discretion, they are not above the law. While prosecutorial misconduct of the character described below is rare, this example cogently demonstrates how heroic citizens who are willing to step up to the plate to report the wrongdoings of the powerful are actually the ones who hold the true power.3
Fraud in North Carolina government: The wife-hiring plot
Under North Carolina law, ethical rules prohibit state prosecutors from hiring their spouses or relatives.
According to the lawsuit, in 2011, when Wallace Bradsher was elected District Attorney in Person and Caswell counties, he hired his wife, Pam Bradsher, as a legal assistant. He did so in spite of a memo from the NC Administrative Office of the Courts that judicial employees are not allowed to hire their spouses. Bradsher was reelected in 2014, at which time he promoted his wife to an investigator role.
In 2014, Craig Blitzer was elected Rockingham County District Attorney and proceeded to hire his wife, Cindy Blitzer, to be a legal assistant.
A few weeks later, the two women “swapped jobs,” and with that, Blitzer and Bradsher thought they’d found a way to circumvent the state’s ethics rules about employing spouses.
Investigators found that Pam Bradsher was doing the work she was being paid to do in Craig Blitzer’s office. However, Cindy Blitzer, while receiving full-time pay and working to get her nursing degree, performed little work as a legal assistant. Cindy later testified that Wallace Bradsher knew she wasn’t doing any work for months, even though she reportedly kept asking for assignments from him. In fact, Bradsher allegedly encouraged Cindy to focus on completing her nursing degree.
Bradsher’s staffers falsified Cindy’s payroll to reflect that she had earned her salary for work she did not do.
Bringing those in power to justice
Debra Halbrook, a staffer to Bradsher at the time, suspected foul play. She reported that she rarely saw Cindy Blitzer in the office. When asked, Cindy reportedly insisted she was working on a murder case in Rockingham County.
Halbrook tipped off the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) in 2017, and Bradsher fired her once he realized she was the leak. She had worked with Bradsher for 19 years, and was a few days short of her 20th anniversary as a legal assistant, which would have entitled her to pension and lifetime health care.
According to WRAL, Halbrook filed suit against Bradsher “for her lost back pay, lost future earnings, lost health and retirement benefits, as well as punitive damages and triple damages allowed under the state Whistleblower Act.”
Both prosecutors resigned after the SBI started its investigation.
In June 2018, jurors convicted Wallace Bradsher of “obtaining property by false pretense, aiding and abetting obtaining property by false pretense, felony obstruction of justice, misdemeanor obstruction of justice and failure to discharge the duties of his office.” Prosecutors argued that Bradsher orchestrated the whole scheme and thereafter served five months behind bars. He was also disbarred and ordered to surrender his law license.
Craig Blitzer testified against Bradsher. Blitzer pled guilty for failure to discharge the duties of his office, and as part of his plea deal, he was disbarred and ordered to pay back the $48,000 investigators found his wife, Cindy Blitzer, was unduly paid.1
North Carolina whistleblower law protection
A Wake County jury found that Debra Halbrook was, indeed, wrongly fired after she supplied the SBI with information about the scheme, and awarded her $1.8 million. Craig Blitzer testified at her trial that her involvement with the SBI was Bradsher’s reason for firing her. Because Halbrook asked for treble and punitive damages if her claim was successful, she may be seeing triple the award — nearly $6 million — once appeals are completed.
“A Wake County jury delivered that justice for Debbie. She is gratified by the jury’s verdict, but she is most gratified by the fact that the justice system worked. North Carolina’s whistleblower law protects the brave public servants who risk everything to come forward and report government wrongdoing. [The] verdict sends a message that these brave whistleblowers will be protected,” a statement from her legal team said.
Carolina Whistleblower Attorneys
In our opinion, whistleblowers deserve every penny they may receive for performing their patriotic duty to report fraud against the government. Whistleblowers can be anybody. Click here to learn more about our legal team and what we can do for you.
Contact the Carolina
If you’re wondering if it’s a good idea to speak with a whistleblower lawyer about what you know, let us set the record straight.
- Corporate ethics hotlines can be risky and may lead to termination. If you’ve already done this, call us immediately.
- Your coworkers could be aware of the fraud – or complicit in it – and you should not talk to them about it.
- The first claim to be filed under the False Claims Act can proceed – if you’re not first, you’re at a serious disadvantage and may get nothing (another reason not to speak to your coworkers about it).
- A confidential discussion costs you a few minutes, but could save you time, stress, and money.
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