Grand jury asks Wake DA to investigate Bev Perdue donor

ablythe@newsobserver.comApril 9, 2013 

— Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby is looking further into the case of a wealthy Democratic campaign donor who helped pay the salary of a staff member of former Gov. Bev Perdue’s 2008 campaign, in violation of state election laws.

An SBI investigator went before the Wake County grand jury to provide a sketch of a case against Charles Michael Fulenwider, a Morganton resident who provided $32,000 to Tryon Capital Ventures in Chapel Hill, to help pay the salary of Julie Sitton, a fundraiser for Perdue’s campaign who was paid off the books, investigators contend.

The grand jury issued a presentment, stating that there was probable cause to believe Fulenwider broke campaign laws.

The presentment is a procedure used occasionally to give prosecutors an idea whether they have a case strong enough for a possible indictment.

Fulenwider, according to Willoughby, has been cooperative with investigators and prosecutors during a long-running investigation into Perdue’s campaign activities.

Sitton and Peter Reichard, Perdue’s former campaign finance chief and an executive with Tryon Capital Ventures, have already pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in the case.

Grand jurors noted that Fulenwider had donated the maximum allowed by state law to Perdue’s campaign when he provided the additional thousands for Sitton’s salary.

Sitton, who also lives in Morganton, the former director of Perdue’s western office, initially suggested that Fulenwider hire her and allow her to work on the campaign, according to previous court hearings outlining the scheme.

Reichard, who has been accused of being the initiator of the scheme, later drew up contracts in which Fulenwider would pay Tryon Capital Ventures $2,000 a month for investment advice, and Reichard would forward the money to Sitton, according to previous court testimony. The North Carolina Democratic Party also paid Sitton $3,000 a month for her campaign work.

Prosecutors contend the arrangement lasted from August 2007 through the May 2008 primary, when Fulenwider thought it had ended. Reichard continued to send him invoices for Sitton’s work, however, and paid for Sitton’s campaign work through the November 2008 election.

Trawick Hamilton “Buzzy” Stubbs Jr., a New Bern resident and a family friend of Perdue’s, also faces felony charges of obstruction of justice and certifying a false campaign finance report. Prosecutors contend he provided the Perdue with campaign flights on his private plane valued at more than $28,000, which should have been disclosed on campaign reports.

Blythe: 919-836-4948

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