Former Asheville Police Department evidence-room manager William Lee Smith has pleaded guilty to a federal charge for embezzling $10-$30,000 in drugs from the evidence room, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. According to the indictment, Smith "surreptitiously opened envelopes containing controlled substances after their return from the SBI lab, where they had been analyzed. Smith then removed some or all of the controlled substances, then resealed the envelopes with a new layer of tape, carefully re-applied directly over the layer of tape that the SBI chemist had used to seal the envelope, with the chemist’s signature or initials."
Smith, who oversaw the evidence room for 20 years, faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines for the one charge of federal program fraud to which he pleaded guilty. The charges are federal because the APD received over $10,000 in federal funding during the year before he left the APD in 2011. Smith is currently out on bond.
The announcement does not mention what happened to firearms and money also found missing in early 2011. In the wake of the an audit report at that time, then-APD Chief Bill Hogan resigned. District Attorney Ron Moore cited the ongoing investigation and refused to release the audit.
In the plea announcement, Moore praised the work of the FBI and the State Bureau of Investigation, as well as Mike Wright, who conducted the 2011 audit. Since then, the APD has hired a new manager and overhauled its evidence-room practices.