Ruffin Poole, a longtime senior aide to former Gov. Mike Easley, corrupted his office by taking trips, liquor, money and other gifts from people he helped with state government action, a federal grand jury charged Thursday.
In a wide-ranging indictment, Poole was charged with 51 counts that include extortion, bribery, racketeering, fraud, money laundering and engaging in transactions in "criminally derived" property. Many of the charges in the indictment from the grand jury flow from Poole's interference in environmental permits, in some cases for projects in which he had invested.
Neither Poole, 37, of Raleigh, nor his lawyer could be reached for comment.
The indictment jolted state government, with officials from both political parties expressing dismay.
Gov. Bev Perdue, a Democrat, said the number was stunning.
"The people of North Carolina are simply tired of this," Perdue said. "It's just wrong for North Carolina."
Republicans pounced, saying the indictment highlights continuing problems in a power structure overseen by Democrats, who have controlled the governor's office since 1993 and the legislature for several years.
"No one who has followed this situation for the past several years should be surprised by today's indictment," state Republican Party Chairman Tom Fetzer said. "This is yet another dark day in the political history of North Carolina."
It is the first indictment to arise from a lengthy probe surrounding Easley, a Democrat who was governor from 2001 until last year. Easley was not mentioned by name in the indictment, and there is no evidence he was aware of any activities mentioned in it.
A lawyer for Easley said the former governor had "no knowledge of the conduct."
U.S. Attorney George E.B. Holding said in a statement that "public service should not be, and cannot be, an opportunity for improper personal gain by the employee, or by others relying on their friendship with that employee."
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