An accounts payable audit has led to two former employees of a small North Carolina airport pleading guilty to federal charges of embezzlement and public corruption conspiracy.
Alex Nelson, who served as the airport administrator, and Bradley Adkins, who was the operations managers, are accused of stealing money and other items from the Foothills Regional Airport in Morganton. Prosecutors allege that both men wrote fraudulent checks to fake businesses that were set up under Adkins' and Nelson's names. The payments were entered in Foothills' financial records as expenses needed for business operations.
In addition to stealing from their employer, The News Herald reports that the defendants also embezzled money from customers who were paying by check for various services, including maintenance and hangar rentals. The men even managed to steal money from customers' credit cards by swiping them through a processing machine owned by Nelson. The system was linked to one of the fake companies set up by the men and payments were automatically deposited in accounts controlled by Nelson.
According to the Charlotte Observer, Nelson took more than $130,000 in funds from the airport. Prosecutors allege that he used the money to purchase vehicles, a pontoon boat, a Florida vacation timeshare and home renovations, including the installation of a swimming pool. The investigation also discovered that Nelson has stolen approximately 1,000 gallons of fuel from the airport to heat a martial arts studio that he owned. He is facing additional charges of money laundering, the news source states.
Nelson and Adkins have agreed to plead guilty to all of the charges. They are facing federal counts as Foothills Regional Airport receives $10,000 in government assistance. Adkins could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison, while the maximum sentence for Nelson is 35 years.