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Former NC senator pleads guilty to federal charges

On Feb. 17, former state Sen. Fletcher Hartsell’s decades-long career as a public servant drew to a dramatic close. Hartsell pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges, which included counts of mail fraud and filing false tax returns.

The 69-year-old Republican from Concord admitted to using about $210,000 in campaign funds to for expenses such as life insurance policies, phone service for relatives and membership to the Carolina Club at UNC-Chapel Hill and a Studebaker driving club.

The News & Observer reports that prosecutors John Strong, special agent in charge of the FBI in North Carolina, accused Hartsell of “spending money as if it were from his own piggy bank.”

Strong said in a statement that the evidence showed Hartsell used campaign funds to pay for a wide range of personal expenses.

Hartsell represented portions of Cabarrus and Union counties for more than 25 years before the federal probe into his use of campaign funds prompted his decision not to seek reelection last year.

At the time of his arrest in June, Hartsell was the longest-serving state senator.

In federal court, Hartsell had originally faced five counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud and six counts of money laundering. He pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and two counts of filing false tax returns.

Hartsell’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 16 in Winston-Salem.

Hartsell faces a maximum sentence of 20 years and a $250,000 fine. The plea arrangement is unclear about whether Hartsell will be sentenced to any prison time.

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