Warrant: Chief ordered officers to drive him to second job while on duty

Search warrants reveal new details in Southport police chief's arrest

SOUTHPORT, NC (WECT) - On average, Southport Police Chief Gary Smith and Lt. Michael Simmons left the Southport Police Department two to four times per week to work their second job hauling trailers of cargo.

The pair would contact another officer in the department to have him drop them off in a truck yard, where they would put their boots, overalls, and gloves on over their police uniforms. They would usually call that officer back in around an hour for a ride back to the police department when they were done "making a run."

And on at least one occasion, Simmons commented that he made $500 in a week doing this.

Those are just some of the facts detailed in court documents filed against Smith and Simmons, who are accused of working for a trucking company while on duty at the Southport Police Department. On Thursday, District Attorney Jon David announced Smith and Simmons — the two highest ranking officers in the department — had been arrested on charges of public corruption following an investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation and Federal Bureau of Investigation. The entire department is now on administrative leave and the Brunswick County Sheriff's Office is overseeing public safety in the coastal community.

Across state lines

According to those documents, a "source of information (SOI)," who apparently was another officer in the department, first contacted the SBI on April 3. He said Smith and Simmons had been working for Mark Warren with Oak Island Transport since February 2018, hauling trailers of cargo to "areas all over North and South Carolina."

Smith and Simmons would ask a Southport officer to drive them to a truck yard, an apparent storage location for several companies according to the document, in a police vehicle. They would often not return to work.

"The SOI advised he would call them and ask where they were, and Chief Smith or Lt. Simmons would say they were 'making a run,' referring to the trucking job," documents state.

Both Smith and Simmons told the SOI they were getting paid for their work with Oak Island Transport, as much as 25 percent of the profit from each cargo delivery. Smith and Simmons also tried to get the SOI to work for Oak Island Transport to "make some extra money," according to documents.

On March 7, State Highway Patrol troopers stopped Simmons on Highway 74 in Columbus County while he was driving a tractor trailer registered to Oak Island Transport and charged him with two, unspecified traffic violations, according to the documents. His daily activity report indicated he was "community policing" during that same time.

The documents describe numerous instances of Simmons being caught on surveillance video, which had been set up near the truck yard soon after the SOI contacted the SBI, driving for Oak Island Transport during times he reported working.

Authorities first suspected Smith's involvement after catching him in a lie about Simmons' whereabouts. Smith told the SOI that Simmons had worked the night of May 3; however, a review of Simmons' cell phone records indicated he actually made an overnight run to the Charlotte, NC, area.

"Smith and Simmons were believed to be using their work issued cell phone to coordinate trips they made while driving for Oak Island Transport," the documents state.

"I just do as I'm told"

On at least one occasion, an on-duty officer was apparently told to wait for Simmons' return to the truck yard.

On July 20, 2018, at approximately 1300 hours, the SOI sent (SBI agent) a cell phone video he captured at the truck yard which showed a uniformed Southport patrol officer sitting in a marked Ford Explorer. The uniformed officer told the SOI that he had Simmons' badge and gun because Simmons' had requested the officer to hold it for him while he made a truck run. The uniformed officer then gave the SOI the badge and gun belonging to Lt. Simmons. The uniformed officer stated to the SOI, 'I don't know about this. I just do as I'm told.'

When Simmons returned in what is quoted in the document as a "raggedy a—truck," he asked the SOI for his badge and gun and got into the other officer's vehicle.

The documents also describe seeing Smith's personal vehicle at the truck yard on "various occasions," and notes at least two instances of Smith driving for the trucking company.

Authorities seized numerous items when executing search warrants at the police department and Southport's town hall, including computers, cell phones, time sheet records, and pay stubs.

Smith and Simmons both face charges of conspiracy to obtain property by false pretenses, willful failure to discharge duties, and obstruction of justice.

They, along with the rest of the Southport Police Department, are on administrative leave with pay pending the ongoing investigation.

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