The State Bureau of Investigation has charged Billy Houston of Duplin County with 28 counts of Obtaining Property by False Pretense for allegedly falsifying sampling results from hog lagoons.
Houston, 61, turned himself into the Duplin County magistrate’s office in Kenansville, according to the SBI. He was released on $140,000 unsecured bond, which does not require an upfront payment.
Obtaining Property by False Pretense for goods or services valued at less than $100,000 is a Class H felony. That is a low-level offense that can carry a punishment of probation or less than a year in jail.
Houston is scheduled to appear in Duplin County District Court Friday at 9:30 a.m.
As Policy Watch reported last month, Houston was a 35-year veteran of the Duplin County Soil and Water District who moonlighted as a private consultant for hog farms. It was in that side role — not as a county employee — that he supposedly visited 35 farms and sampled 55 lagoons in a single day.
The results of that sampling raised red flags at the Department of Agriculture laboratories because the levels of phosphorus, nitrogen and metals were similar across the lagoons.
“He was doing things he shouldn’t have been doing,” Franklin O. Williams, a Duplin County Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor told state agriculture officials earlier this month. “He was cutting corners and being lazy.”