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Ownley charged with embezzlement

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Sarah Ownley

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From staff reports

Friday, December 1, 2017

Elizabeth City police have charged a local community activist with what they say were “numerous fraudulent business transactions,” including embezzlement of $4,199, at the local apartment complex where she worked.

Sarah Hawkins Ownley, 44, of the 300 block of Adams Creek Road, Elizabeth City, was arrested Friday and charged with 15 felony counts that include embezzlement and forgery. All 15 counts are connected to Ownley’s employment as property manager for the River’s Edge apartment complex, a police press release states.

Ownley is charged with seven counts of felony embezzlement and eight counts of felony uttering a forged instrument. She had a first appearance in Pasquotank District Court on Friday, after which she was transported to Albemarle District Jail where she remains in lieu of a $38,000 secured bond.

A district court clerk reported late Friday that Ownley’s next court date is a probable cause hearing on Jan. 22.

It was not clear from the police press release if Ownley still works for the River’s Edge apartment complex. Police department spokesman Sgt. Jamie Judge referred a reporter to River’s Edge management, who couldn’t be immediately reached Friday.

Judge also declined to detail how Ownley allegedly committed the embezzlement, citing the ongoing investigation and the potential for additional charges.

Ownley is best known for her harsh criticism of city officials during the city’s problems with utility billing earlier this year. Part of the “Enough is Enough Elizabeth City” Facebook group, she often chided city officials for not holding themselves and City Manager Rich Olson accountable for billing problems. She often drew applause as well, particularly in a heated town hall in May.

Accusing Ownley of spreading false rumors and undermining faith in the city’s utility system, City Council approved releasing Ownley’s own history of utility problems, including charges of meter tampering.

Ownley and her supporters continued to blast city officials despite — or because of — that action, however, including at a lightly attended town hall meeting in September. Notably, Ownley accused the city then of losing $7,000 in payments her employer made.

Judge said police have no reason to believe further criminal activity is occurring at River’s Edge, but the department is asking anyone potentially affected by the embezzlement, or anyone with knowledge of it, to contact Detective Kevin Burgess of the Elizabeth City Police Department at 621-7129.

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