Pubdate: Tue, 22 Aug 2006
Source: Fayetteville Observer (NC)
Copyright: 2006 Fayetteville Observer
Author: Greg Barnes


RALEIGH - A former Robeson County deputy pleaded guilty Monday in
federal court to conspiracy to kidnap two Virginia men and use of a
firearm during a crime.

Patrick Ferguson is the third former deputy to plead guilty in a
3-year state and federal investigation called Operation Tarnished
Badge. In all, eight former Robeson County deputies and two Lumberton
police officers have been charged since the investigation began.
Investigators say more arrests are likely.

A release from the U.S. Attorney's Office says Ferguson, 35, and an
accomplice, James Allen Black Jr., drove from North Carolina to
Virginia, kidnapped two Virginia men and drove them back to North
Carolina on Feb. 27, 2004.

Two months earlier, Black robbed a suspected drug dealer of 2kilograms
of cocaine and about $150,000, the release says.

An earlier indictment says Black, 34, and former Robeson County Deputy
Vincent Sinclair beat Darius Bain and held him until a $150,000 ransom
was paid.

Sinclair is charged in another indictment with going to Virginia and
kidnapping two men Feb. 27, 2004, the same date that Ferguson and
Black admitted kidnapping the two Virginia men. A trial is pending for
Sinclair, who was fired from the Sheriff's Office shortly after his
arrest in May 2005.

At the time of Sinclair's arrest, investigators said one of the
kidnapped men had been shot by an unindicted co-conspirator.

Ferguson and Black, both of Red Springs, were charged by a bill of
criminal information, which generally means they have agreed to
cooperate with federal investigators. Black also pleaded guilty Monday.

Elisabeth Regan, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in
Raleigh, said she could not comment on terms of the plea agreements or
on whether Ferguson and Black have agreed to testify against other
former deputies under indictment.

Ferguson worked for the Sheriff's Office for nearly 10 years. He
formerly served as a juvenile detective under Sheriff Ken Sealey when
Sealey headed the Juvenile Investigation Division.

Ferguson's plea follows closely behind pleas by two other former

In July, former Deputy James O. Hunt pleaded guilty to stealing more
than $150,000 during drug stops on Interstate 95 and agreed to testify
against other deputies.

On Aug. 4, former Deputy Kevin Meares pleaded guilty to stealing about
$25,000 in money reimbursed to the county under the federal drug asset
recovery program.

Three other former deputies - C.T. Strickland, Roger Taylor and Steven
Lovin - were indicted in June on charges of arson, assault, theft of
public funds, distribution of drugs and money laundering.

In his plea hearing, Hunt acknowledged that he stole money during drug
stops along I-95 and split it with Lovin.

Meares acknowledged in his plea hearing that Strickland taught him how
to steal money that was supposed to have been used by confidential
informants to buy drugs from dealers.

Federal court records show that Strickland, Taylor and Lovin are
scheduled to be tried in December. 
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