SBI probe in Hoke County a ‘serious’ criminal investigation, sheriff says

Hoke County Sheriff Hubert Peterkin. Photo by David Hurst/CBS North Carolina

RAEFORD, N.C. (WNCN) — An investigation in Hoke County is underway that the sheriff says has the potential to send several county employees to prison.

“This is a serious investigation because it’s criminal,” Hoke County Sheriff Hubert Peterkin said on Tuesday. “This investigation could lead to someone going to jail or even prison when it’s over.”

Peterkin said the investigation has the potential to be bigger than back in 2001 when a former Hoke County manager was sent to jail for embezzling $250,000.

RELATED: SBI searches Hoke County government offices

“When you’re talking about county government, you’re dealing with taxpayers’ money, so we want to make sure that we’re doing what we’re supposed to do over here,” Peterkin added.

The investigation became public Monday night when SBI investigators closed one of the county buildings to serve a search warrant.

“It came as a big shock to me,” said Letitia Edens, the Hoke County Manager.

Edens says investigators were looking for time sheets for no more than five employees dating back about 18 months.

“It is not big, it is a small number, but it is personnel, so I can’t discuss in detail what they’re looking for,” Edens said.

Peterkin says the investigation began after his office and the district attorney’s office received a tip about three months ago. The county officials were able to corroborate the claim and decided to call in the SBI.

“… we know first-hand this has the capability of going way beyond some time sheets,” Peterkin said.

“We realized quickly that we were dealing with a problem and it was something that we could definitely not turn away from,” he added.

The county government building that was shut down Monday night was back open Tuesday.

But the SBI says their investigation into the county continues and there’s no timeframe for when it will conclude.

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