Exclusive: Woman who sparked investigation into McCollum Ranch speaks

John McCollum

RALEIGH (WNCN) — The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office said it was a police report filed in Raleigh that led them to investigate John McCollum, his ranch and other businesses. According to that police report, Sevia Cox said her identity had been stolen. Cox spoke exclusively with CBS North Carolina.

The investigation led to deputies pursuing charges against 10 members of a religious group that McCollum ran, including accusations that they held children in involuntary servitude.

The issue started with a loan Cox said she never took out.

“I haven’t been to school in like 5 or 6 years, maybe more. I’m not in school. So I don’t understand why I’m paying any student loans back,” Cox said.

Cox said she contacted the state, who told her she owed more than $4,000. That, she said, led a collection agency to garnish last year’s tax refund.

RELATED: Investigation into members of Cumberland County religious group accused of holding children in servitude continues

Two investigators with the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office followed up.

Cox told CBS North Carolina that together they went to Wake Tech, where they determined someone used her personal information to create a fake high school transcript. That was then used to apply for admissions and financial aid.

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“The address was something McCollum Lane in Cumberland County. And I was like, I don’t stay there. That’s not my address,” Cox said.

The transcript said she’d attended the Halls of Knowledge homeschool.

According to state records, Hall was running that homeschool, which was located at the McCollum ranch.

Cox said she met McCollum and Hall four years ago. They told her they could help her go to college. She told us she trusted them with her information and attended school for a semester.

As information continues to come to light regarding what took place at the ranch, Cox said she’s in shock but glad she intervened.

“That’s great. I’m really glad that I could help some people,” Cox said.

She still owes more than $1,000 from that original $4,000. She’s hoping to get her money back.

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