NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. -- A North Wilkesboro restaurant owner has been arrested for allegedly buying food stamps, then using them to buy food and selling the food at his restaurant.
North Wilkesboro police have charged 53-year-old Herbert Dean Carlton, owner of Dean's Southern Bistro, with 14 misdemeanor counts of illegal possession and use of food stamp cards. They say an anonymous tip to the Department of Social Services alerted them to the alleged misuse and after an 11 month investigation, Carlton turned himself in on Monday.
Warrants show that Carlton bought $1,063.48 worth of items with the food stamps, which police say were in bulk.
"I don't think he did it intentionally. I don't think he knew that he would get in trouble for doing what he did. If he did, I don't think he would have done it," said Ben Gyant, an employee at the restaurant.
Gyant believes that Carlton was trying to help the people he allegedly bought the food stamps from.
"I don't think it was like he [went] hunting for somebody to do this for him. I think they came to him," said Gyant.
Nobody at the restaurant denied Carlton's guilt, just the perception of why he allegedly committed the crimes.
"We all make mistakes, make wrong decisions. It's part of life, you learn from them and go on. But that doesn't mean you're not a good person," said Carol Wilson, Carlton's cousin and employee.
Customers had a similar stance on Carlton's arrest.
"Dean's still Dean. He's still my friend. As far as his business, I choose nobody else," said Ernest Coles.
Whether or not customers will have a chance to choose Dean's Southern Bistro in the future is still hanging in the balance.
"I'm concerned about my job. If business -- I don't know, it might pick up. It might hurt. Might close the doors, I don't know," said Gyant.
One person has been arrested for allegedly selling Carlton the food stamps. Police say he is 23-year-old Thomas Joshua Byers. They say Byers was already in jail, but will face five felony counts of buying, selling and distribution of food stamp cards.
Carlton was released after posting a $5,000 unsecured bond. He is due in court on Sept. 17.