For Immediate Release: August 15, 2012

Former Bryson City Fire Chief, Wife Arrested After Joint Investigation

RALEIGH -- Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin today announced the arrests of Joseph Winford Hughes, 44, and Cylena Taylor Hughes, 44, both of 1138 Hyatt Creek Road, Bryson City.

Joseph Hughes was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit embezzlement, two counts of embezzlement of greater than $100,000, 10 counts of felony making a false statement on a required report to the Commissioner of Insurance, two counts of conspiracy to commit forgery, three counts of common law forgery, five counts of common law uttering and five counts of conspiracy to commit larceny of chose in action.

Cylena Hughes was charged with five counts of larceny of chose in action, five counts of conspiracy to commit larceny of chose in action, one count of forgery, two counts of conspiracy to commit common law forgery, one count of forgery of endorsement, one count of uttering a forged endorsement, three counts of embezzlement and one count of conspiracy to commit embezzlement.

After a 10-month joint investigation by the North Carolina Department of Insurance Criminal Investigations Division and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, Joseph and Cylena Hughes are accused of embezzlement activity related to the Bryson City Fire Department local Firemen’s Relief Fund and the East Swain Elementary Parent Teacher Organization fund. The defendants were indicted by a grand jury in Swain County on Aug. 14.

Joseph Hughes and Cylena Hughes were arrested on Aug. 14 and processed at the Swain County Detention Center; Joseph Hughes was placed under a $250,000 secured bond and Cylena Hughes was placed under a $200,000 secured bond.

The Department of Insurance employs 20 sworn state law enforcement officers dedicated to investigating and prosecuting claims of insurance and bail bonding fraud. Since Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin took office in 2009, criminal investigators have received more than 14,000 complaints, resulting in 602 arrests, 333 criminal convictions and more than 110 pending court cases. These efforts have delivered more than $48.5 million in restitution and recoveries for victims.

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. Information is also available at www.ncdoi.com.

--NCDOI--