Wheeler faces 20 years behind bars

Published 6:33 am Monday, March 18, 2013

By Lance Martin


RALEIGH – William Otis Wheeler faces a maximum of 10 years imprisonment on each of the two counts he pled guilty to in Federal Court here Tuesday, along with a $250,000 fine and up to three years supervised release.

The former detective with the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office pled guilty to possession of a stolen firearm and the sale of a stolen firearm. If he receives the maximum punishment, that would translate to 20 years imprisonment, 10 years for each count.

Wheeler is scheduled for sentencing on June 20 after taking a plea agreement on the stolen firearms counts, federal court records show. Those records, however, do not indicate the terms of the agreement or a possible sentencing range.

A federal grand jury, according to court records, returned a true bill of indictment against Wheeler on November 27, for one count of possession of stolen firearms and two counts of sale of stolen firearms.

Court documents did not mention Wheeler’s former association with the sheriff’s office. The documents also do not mention where the weapons came from or to whom they were sold.

In a December 5 article published in the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Northampton 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. “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, at one time chief deputy for the department, between April of 2010 and August 10 of last 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, Wheeler knowingly sold stolen firearms, which had been shipped in interstate commerce.

A warrant for Wheeler’s arrest was requested on November 27, according to court documents.

(Lance Martin is Publisher and Editor of www.rrspin.com and granted permission for the use of this story.)