August 21, 2018

Veterans groups hit by embezzling, couple charged


A local couple, formerly active in Alexander veterans’ groups, has been charged with embezzling funds from three organizations, according to Sheriff Chris Bowman.

On May 29, 2018, the Alexander County Sheriff’s Office received a report from an officer with the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Chapter 84 in Alexander County in reference to an embezzlement that had occurred at that organization. Investigators found that a member of the organization had embezzled approximately $5,800 from the DAV. The incidents occurred from August 2017 until it was found on May 29, 2018. The member was identified as James Marion Benfield. Benfield was the treasurer in the DAV.

Investigators learned that Benfield was also an officer in the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion, both in Alexander County. Officials with those organizations also met with investigators. Benfield was the Second Commander with the VFW and the Commander with the American Legion. Both organizations also found that he embezzled from their organizations during the same time period. Many transactions were ATM withdrawals and he used checks from the DAV to pay his bills.

Investigators charged and arrested Benfield for three felony counts of Embezzlement. Benfield is a white male, age 65 of Taylorsville.

Benfield stated that his girlfriend, Martha Elizabeth “Lizzy” Dixon, a white female, age 46, also used the ATM to withdraw money for their use. Investigators interviewed Dixon and she also admitted to taking the money for personal use, said Sheriff Bowman. Dixon was arrested for three felony counts of Conspiracy to Commit Embezzlement.

Both were taken before Magistrate Brenda Bumgarner and were given a $15,500 secured bond each. Both had an initial court appearance on Monday, June 4, 2018, in District Court in Taylorsville. Both cases are continued until July 2 in Alexander County District Court. Attorney Jacklan Marsh was court-appointed to represent Benfield, and attorney Matthew Benton was appointed to defend Dixon.

Benfield and Dixon have been released on bond awaiting trial.

Sheriff Bowman wants to thank all of these organizations for their swift actions in reporting these incidents so that authorities could conduct an investigation in these matters. The investigation is continuing.

Dixon was observed at work Tuesday, June 5, as an Alexander County Schools bus driver.

Bill Griffin, Executive Director of Auxiliary Services for the school system, stated June 5: “We are aware of the arrest and have taken appropriate action. The charges have been deemed unrelated to Ms. Dixon’s job responsibilities with the school system and do not constitute a risk to the students or school environment. All other information is subject to North Carolina General Statute 115C- 319 Privacy of Employee Personnel Records.”

DAV State Commander speaks about case
J. Kristofer Knowlton, Commander of DAV Department of North Carolina and DAV Chapter 84 in Taylorsville, issued the following statement regarding the case:
“Integrity, loyalty, patriotism, and trust are the foundation of the Disabled American Veterans. When someone in our organization undermines that foundation, it is incumbent on our leadership to act swiftly, as we did this past week, to weed out those who would tarnish our good name.

“DAV Chapter 84 has enjoyed many decades of men and women in leadership positions who have not faltered and held tight to the values the Disabled American Veterans hold so dear.

“This incident will not tear us down but rather strengthen us as an organization. We will continue our mission of helping Veterans in need. It is through your generous donations and the volunteers in Chapter 84 that we have been able to provide transportation service for Veterans to their appointments at VA facilities and to build wheel chair ramps at no cost to the Veteran. There is scarcely a family in Alexander County that has not witnessed Chapter 84’s Honor Guard perform Military Rites at a loved ones funeral. Last year, Chapter 84 voted to support ‘Dental Care for Veterans,’ a program that is getting underway by the DAV Department of North Carolina. Through this program, Veterans will be able to receive primary dental care at no charge.

“The members of Alexander County Disabled American Veterans Chapter 84 see a great future ahead and as always appreciate the great support we have had from the citizens of Alexander County,” said Knowlton.

VFW announces changes following incident
Adjutant Andrew Ferguson, of VFW Combined Post 5466/10000, sent the following statement:
“It is our duty, but with great disappointment, to report accounting irregularities discovered by officers of the VFW Post 5466/10000 during the end of fiscal year audit. The issues were brought forward to the Post Commander, who then notified the authorities.

“The investigation thus far has determined that some Post funds are unaccountable, over a very short period of time, and that the Sheriff’s Office has taken two individuals into custody on a related complaint. While we are confident that we have determined how much money is missing, we cannot release the specific details at this time due to the ongoing investigation. Fortunately, due to the tight controls over our finances by our outgoing Adjutant, our exposure was very low, and the missing monies are in the process of being recovered or made up internally.

“The Veterans of Foreign Wars Combined Post 5466/10000 takes the matter of misallocation of Post funds very seriously, and while our exposure to the theft was very minor, we take a zero-tolerance approach to maleficence. We will be making some adjustments to our accounting procedures to ensure that this will forever be an isolated incident. It is requested that any future donations to this Post please be made in the form of a check payable to VFW Post 5466 and delivered only to the Post Commander or Adjutant.

“We wish to thank the citizens of the county for their continued support and hope this incident does not tarnish the reputation of our fine organization or hamper our continued mission of supporting county veterans and the community,” Ferguson concluded.

American Legion makes statement
Similarly, the American Legion Post 170 Vice Commander Mike Annas issued a statement on the matter, as follows:
“We are extremely distressed to report the following: It is our duty, but with great disappointment, to report accounting irregularities discovered by an officer of the Legion Post 170 during the end of fiscal year audit. The issues were brought forward to the Post First and Second Vice Commanders who then notified the authorities.

“The investigation thus far has determined that some CASH Post funds are unaccountable, over a very short period of time, and that the Sheriff’s Office has taken two individuals into custody on a related complaint. While we are confident that we have determined approximately how much money is missing, we cannot release the specific details at this time due to the ongoing investigation. Fortunately, due to the tight controls over our finances by our Adjutant, the Post’s exposure was very low, and the missing monies are in the process of being possibly recovered or made up internally.

“The Alexander Legion Post 170 takes the matter of misallocation of Post funds very seriously, and while our exposure to the theft was very minor compared to the other Veterans’ organizations, we likewise take a zero-tolerance approach to maleficence. We will be making some adjustments to our accounting procedures to ensure that this will forever be an isolated incident. It is requested that any future donations to this Post please be made in the form of a check payable to Legion Post 170 and delivered ONLY to the Post Commander, Adjutant or to the Post mailbox @ PO BOX 1616, Taylorsville, NC 28681.

“We wish to thank the citizens of the county for their continued support and hope this incident does not tarnish the reputation of our fine organization or hamper our continued mission of supporting county veterans, our youth programs and our community at large,” Annas stated.

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