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Former Rockingham County commissioner pleads guilty to 15 felonies

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WENTWORTH, N.C. — A former Rockingham County commissioner pleaded guilty Thursday to multiple felonies, according to Rockingham County District Attorney Craig Blitzer.

William Leonard “W.L.” Pryor pled guilty today in Rockingham County Superior Court to 15 felony counts of unlawful operation or possession of video gaming machines.

Blitzer said in a news release Thursday he had law enforcement agents throughout the county hand deliver letters to the operators of video gaming establishments shortly after taking office last year.

In those letters, Blitzer informed operators of a “grace period” within which operators needed to cease all illegal gaming operations by July 1, 2015, or face prosecution, the news release said.

Pryor had initially complied with Blitzer’s deadline, closing his sweepstakes operation by July 1, 2015. But in late summer of 2015, Pryor re-opened his video gaming operation, the “Ruffin Depot”, located in Ruffin, Blitzer said.

In a joint operation between the Rockingham County District Attorney’s Office, the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office and the North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement Branch, law enforcement conducted surveillance at the Ruffin Depot on 15 separate occasions.

Pryor was indicted by the District Attorney’s Office on Oct. 5, 2015, and a Rockingham County Grand Jury returned true bills of indictment that same day, Blitzer said.

Pryor’s plea places him on unsupervised probation for 12 months. During those 12 months, Pryor is not permitted to operate any gaming establishment anywhere within Rockingham County. Pryor also has to pay $15,000 in fines, an amount negotiated between Blitzer and Pryor’s attorneys.

Pryor is to make 2 payments of $7,500 each, the first one due by Oct. 28, 2016, and the second one due by April 28, 2017.

The $15,000 in fines will go to the school board.

The video gaming equipment seized by law enforcement during a search of The Ruffin Depot in September 2015 are to be destroyed.

Blitzer said if Pryor successfully complies with the terms of his plea, a judge will dismiss the charges in one year. Failure to comply with the conditions of his plea will expose Pryor to 15 separate felony sentences. Each of the 15 felony sentences carries with it a possible term in prison.