N.C. political operative makes federal court appearance

State - Regional

FILE – In this Dec. 5, 2018, file photo, Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr. poses for a portrait outside of his home in Bladenboro, N.C. Dowless, a political operative already accused in state court of absentee ballot fraud during a 2018 North Carolina congressional election, now faces federal charges of fraudulently receiving Social Security benefits while getting paid for political work, prosecutors said Tuesday, April 21, 2020. (Travis Long/The News & Observer via AP)

WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) — A political operative at the center of a North Carolina absentee ballot fraud investigation has made his first court appearance on federal charges related to his campaign work.

Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr. of Bladen County was present in Wilmington federal court on Monday before a magistrate judge. A grand jury indicted Dowless on charges that he received thousands of dollars more in Social Security benefits than he was entitled to because he allegedly concealed more than $100,000 he was paid for campaign work.

Dowless is accused separately in state court of illegally “harvesting” mail-in ballots while working for a Republican congressional candidate.

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