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Embezzlement Scandal Shocks Community

In a tight knit McDowell County community, the story has spread like wildfire.
Thomas Swofford, the former chief of the Ashford North Cove Fire Department, faces charges that longtime residents like Howard Hudgins find hard to fathom.

"It's really hard to judge people," says Howard Hudgins of McDowell County. "I hate it for him, because we all thought the world of him. "

Swofford has been hit with four counts of embezzlement. Department of insurance criminal investigators say $269,000 were stolen between 2010 to 2013.
They also allege that as chief,  Swofford made more $500 withdrawals from fire department accounts and kept the money for personal use.
Hudgins can only shake his head.

"Why did it come to that.? What caused him to do that you know?" He asks.

An anonymous complaint about the use of grant funds filed with the Mcdowell County finance office spurred the investigation.

The current chief, Jake Leopold, says the case does not reflect badly on his department. He says now that he's chief, they'll be more active in the community.

Meanwhile, other former colleagues told us they have no comment.

Still stunned by allegations against a respected man who was once their leader.


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