A Forsyth County prosecutor argued there’s little difference in what Charles Dewayne Washington was convicted of doing more than 30 years ago — embezzling money over a period of time from an organization — and what he is on trial for this week.
In 1989, Washington, 56, of Clement Street in Winston-Salem was convicted of embezzling more than $6,000 from the Young Democrats of Forsyth County. He is now on trial on two counts of embezzlement and one count of conspiracy to commit embezzlement. (A third count of embezzlement was dismissed by prosecutors on Monday). He is accused of stealing more than $100,000 from local businessman Bobby Slate between 2005 and 2008.
Dan Anthony, Washington’s attorney, filed a motion seeking to prohibit prosecutors from mentioning those past allegations during a trial that will start today. But Scott Harkey, a financial crimes prosecutor for the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys, said there are similarities between what Washington was convicted of doing in the late 1980s and what he is accused of doing to Slate.
Judge Eric Morgan of Forsyth Superior Court said he would take the matter under advisement and will issue a decision sometime later during the trial.
Washington is the second person to go on trial on allegations of embezzling from Slate. Rhonda Lea Byrd, 60, of Lexington was convicted in April 2019 of three counts of embezzlement. She also pleaded guilty to two additional charges of embezzlement and one charge of conspiracy. She is serving up to 10 years in prison.
Stanley Gunter, former president of the Young Democrats of Forsyth County, said that Washington was the group’s treasurer from late 1986 through 1987. The organization had two checking accounts, and Washington was the only one who had access to and control over those accounts, Gunter said.
At the time, the group was raising money for a statewide convention that was going to be at a Winston-Salem hotel now known as the Embassy Suites, Gunter said. When suppliers were not getting paid, the group’s leaders became suspicious. They eventually found that more than $6,000 from both accounts had vanished, Gunter said.
They confronted Washington, who admitted he had embezzled the money by writing checks to himself or by writing checks for cash, Gunter said.
Washington pleaded guilty to the embezzlement in 1989. Indictments alleged that he stole $6,352 from the organization between October 1986 and November 1987. He was placed on three years of supervised probation and ordered to pay back the money.
Gunter said Washington resigned from the organization in December 1987 and had promised to pay the money back. When he didn’t, the group filed a report with the Winston-Salem Police Department, which investigated the case.
“The testimony (of Gunter) is strikingly and eerily similar to the facts of this case,” Harkey told Morgan.
In both cases, checking accounts weren’t available to anyone except the people accused of embezzling money, he said. Harkey said that, in 1987, Washington was accused of misappropriating money through 56 checks he wrote either to himself or for cash. The current allegations involved 50 to 60 checks. And in both cases, Washington was accused of embezzling money over a period of time.
Anthony, however, said that’s simply not true, arguing that Washington did not have control over the checking accounts. The latest allegations involve multiple accounts associated with one of Slate’s businesses, La Casa Real Estate and Investments LLC.
The only thing Washington had authority to do was deposit money into the accounts, Anthony argued. Anthony also filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that three critical witnesses died before indictments against Washington were handed down in 2016.
Harkey said Byrd made a similar argument before her trial.
“This is a last-minute Hail Mary attempt to escape justice in this case,” he said.
Morgan denied the motion.
Washington is charged with stealing more than $100,000. However, Slate alleged in a federal lawsuit that Washington and Byrd stole more than $3 million from his various businesses over a 10-year period. They opened credit-card accounts and lines of credit at financial institutions in the names of Slate Marketing and Slate Retail Systems, the lawsuit alleged.
The lawsuit also said Byrd and Washington embezzled loan proceeds from a home-equity line on Slate’s house, stole money from corporate plaintiffs to buy vacation homes in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and defrauded Slate to buy another home in High Meadows in the North Carolina mountains.
The trial will start with jury selection today. It is expected to last two weeks.