Former Northampton Chief Deputy indicted

Published 7:24 pm Tuesday, December 4, 2012

RALEIGH– The former Chief Deputy of the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office has been indicted and arrested at the federal level for allegedly selling weapons that he stole from the evidence room at the Jackson-based office.

On Nov. 27, a federal grand jury, according to court records, returned a true bill of indictment against William Otis “Bill” Wheeler for one count of possession of stolen firearms and two counts of sale of stolen firearms.

Wheeler was arrested on Monday of this week and made an appearance in U.S. Federal Court in Raleigh on Wednesday morning. There, Wheeler was released on his own recognizance and his arraignment date has not been set yet, according to information provided by Don Connelly, Law Enforcement Coordinator/Public Information Officer with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Northampton County Sheriff Wardie Vincent said the weapons allegedly stolen by Wheeler were at one time being held in a locker inside the department’s evidence room.

“We were performing a routine inventory of items in our evidence room a year or so ago at which time we discovered some inconsistencies with that inventory; there were items missing,” Vincent said Wednesday morning. “Upon discovering those inconsistencies we requested assistance from the SBI.”

Vincent said that at some point during the SBI’s involvement in the case, he was contacted and advised that the FBI would be assisting in the ongoing investigation.

“All three of us – FBI, SBI and the Sheriff’s Office – were jointly working this case for the past eight-to-nine months,” Vincent said. “The FBI wound up as the lead agency on this case.”

Vincent added that Wheeler, a veteran law enforcement officer, resigned as Chief Deputy. That position is now filled by Daryl Harmon, the department’s former Captain.

“The situation with Bill is very unfortunate,” Vincent said.

The grand jury charges in the first count that Wheeler, between April of 2010 and August 10 of this year, knowingly possessed stolen firearms, which had been shipped and transported in interstate commerce before they were stolen, knowing and having reasonable cause to believe the firearms were stolen.

In the second count the grand jury charges that between May 1, 2010 and June 30, 2010, Wheeler knowingly sold stolen firearms, which had been shipped and transported in interstate commerce before they were stolen.

The grand jury charges in the third count that Wheeler, between May 1, 2010 and August 31, 2010, knowingly sold stolen firearms, which had been shipped in interstate commerce.