For Immediate Release: March 25, 2010

Contacts: Kristin Milam 919-807-6011

Hoke County Building Code Official Arrested

Inspector faces charges of performing fire inspections without a license

RALEIGH -- Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin today announced the arrest of Leonard Gerald Thompson, 59, 6349 Rockford Drive, Fayetteville. He was arrested Tuesday and charged with 30 counts of performing fire safety inspections without being certified as a fire inspector.

Department of Insurance investigators allege that Thompson misrepresented his credentials to Hoke County, saying that he was a certified fire inspector. From April 2007 to June 2009, Thompson was acting in the capacity as a fire inspector for Hoke County, and according to arrest warrants, he performed at least 30 fire inspections at daycares, public schools and other commercial buildings. After the investigation began, Thompson stopped conducting routine fire safety inspections for Hoke County, and the county contracted with a certified fire inspector. The certified inspector allegedly identified crucial Fire Code violations during several annual fire inspections, including two schools and an ethanol plant that did not have the required operational fire alarms and/or fire sprinkler systems. Buildings are required to have regular fire safety inspections, with the inspection frequency depending on the building's specific use in accordance with Section 106 of the North Carolina Fire Prevention Code.

Thompson is no longer employed with Hoke County.

Department investigators became involved in the case after receiving a complaint from the Code Qualifications Board stemming from an anonymous tip; the Qualifications Board is housed within the Department's Office of State Fire Marshal section and is responsible for certifying building inspectors in North Carolina.

The Department of Insurance employs 20 sworn law enforcement officers dedicated to investigating claims of insurance fraud. In 2009, these criminal investigators saw more than 413 cases successfully closed with more than $10.5 million in restitution and recoveries, 89 criminal convictions and 175 arrests.

An estimated 10 cents of every dollar paid in premiums goes toward the payment of fraudulent claims. To report suspected fraud, contact the Department of Insurance Criminal Investigations Division at 919-807-6840. Callers may remain anonymous.

--NCDOI--