A former North Carolina prison manager now knows what it’s like to be on the other side of the bars.
Michael Scott Ragan, a former business officer at Central Prison in Raleigh, has been sentenced to a minimum of four-and-a-half years in prison for embezzling more than $260,000 from the state.
He has repaid $15,000 of the money and has been ordered to pay restitution for the rest of what he embezzled, according to Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman.
He’s currently incarcerated at Piedmont Correctional Institution in Salisbury.
The indictment stated that Ragan, 50, had embezzled a total of $266,557.22 using state-issued procurement credit cards from Sept. 24, 2012, until March 10, 2020, according to a March story in The (Raleigh) News & Observer.
Ragan used his procurement card — and the procurement cards of two other state employees — to buy Christmas decorations, gift cards, jewelry, pet supplies, appliances and furniture, among other things, Freeman said.
Freeman said there’s no indication that the other two employees knew their cards were being used for fraudulent purposes.
Some of the embezzled money went to help put on an elaborate holiday light show at Ragan’s home in Oxford, northeast of Durham, Freeman said. A January 2020 story about the light show, posted on the web page of Duke University’s Department of Pediatrics, said Ragan and his wife had agreed to give all donations for the light show to Duke Children’s Hospital that year.
Using Microsoft Word, Ragan doctored receipts to make it appear that his purchases were for legitimate purposes, Freeman said. Ragan’s case, she said, makes it clear that “there needs to be tighter review of the use of purchase cards by employees.”
The state Department of Public Safety “continues to review p-card policies and procedures and is taking appropriate actions to safeguard the expenditure of state tax dollars,” state prison spokesman John Bull stated in an email to the Observer.
“The Department of Public Safety takes all allegations of fraud, waste and abuse seriously and will not tolerate criminal activities,” Bull wrote.
Ragan joined the prison system as a correctional officer in 1994 and resigned from his job as a business officer in April 2020, state records show. He was earning about $58,000 a year at the time.