Massive Embezzlement

Half million $$$ scheme. Woman pleads guilty, gets 5 years


BAYBORO – Debra Annette Conway, 57, once a trusted staffer with Bay River Metropolitan Sewerage District, pleaded guilty Monday to six felony counts of Embezzlement.

Conway was sentenced in Pamlico County Superior Court by Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Charles H. Henry to serve a minimum of five and a maximum of seven years in prison, followed by five years of probation and ordered to pay $543,132.25 in restitution.

After reading a brief and tearful statement in which she apologized,  Conway left the courtroom with her attorney Ken Crow.  Later that day, she authorized the transfer of $162,616.39 from various accounts under her control – the first installment toward restitution. She also donned the familiar black-and-white prison garb of Pamlico County Detention Center, and had mugshots taken. 

The remaining balance is to be paid as a condition of probation upon her release from prison. The Court further ordered the forfeiture of all monies held in certain banking and retirement accounts held by Conway to go toward restitution, and CONWAY was barred from holding any fiduciary or financial position during the term of probation.

In attendance during the court session were four members of the sewer utility’s governing board – Ed Riggs Jr., Art Kelly, Booker T. Jones, and Kelvin Credle – although no one offered comments. 

Prior to her arrest, Conway was an employee and bookkeeper of the Bay River Metropolitan Sewer District of Pamlico County. During a routine audit, an auditor discovered that money was being withdrawn from certain accounts of the sewer district in excess of what the books showed. Examination of original bank records obtained by auditors revealed that statements previously provided by Conway had been altered to attempt to hide discrepancies in the bookkeeping, and that the missing debits discovered by the audit were transferred to an entity that provided payroll services to the department. 

Records from the payroll company showed that from 2013 until 2020, multiple unauthorized payroll deposits totaling $289,209.39 were made from the payroll company into a bank account in the name of Debbie Conway. During the same time period, Conway acquired a fleet gas card and made unauthorized purchases of $12,416.96 of fuel, and caused the district to make unauthorized payments totaling $69,850.00 into her retirement account. 

Also during this time period, Conway caused her payroll to be altered to stop the withholding taxes from being removed from her paycheck, totaling $71,072.30 and caused the district to provide health insurance for her and her family but did not cause the appropriate employee contribution to be withheld from her paycheck, which totaled $39,458.10. The restitution ordered by the court reflects these amounts, as well as costs to the district associated with conducting a forensic audit and legal fees incurred as a result of Conway’s criminal conduct.

The case was investigated by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation Financial Crimes Unit and was prosecuted by District Attorney Scott Thomas with the assistance of the Conference of District Attorneys Financial Crimes prosecutors. The State was represented in court by Chief Financial Crimes Prosecutor Charles A. Spahos.