DA rules no charges for Norwood commissioner

Published 9:06 am Wednesday, September 12, 2018

A 13-month SBI probe of a Norwood town commissioner concluded with no criminal charges.

Faced with allegations of embezzlement from his business partners, Robbie Cohen had been the focus of a probe by the financial crimes unit of the State Bureau of Investigation followed by a month-long review by Stanly County District Attorney Lynn Clodfelter. The SBI submitted its findings in a 1,200-page report last month, excluding copious documents retained for evidence.

T. Lynn Clodfelter

“After a thorough review by the Stanly County District Attorney’s Office, and the Chief Financial Crimes Prosecutor from the North Carolina Conference of District Attorney’s (NCCDA) in Raleigh, N.C.; of the information provided pursuant to the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation, it was determined that there was insufficient evidence of criminal conduct to recommend that charges be issued against Robert Cohen,” Clodfelter stated in a press release on Monday.

The Albemarle Police Department brought the case forth to the SBI last summer after Cohen’s business partners of MaCo Development alleged Cohen used company funds from three different businesses toward personal expenses.

As a result, the SBI seized business and financial records from MaCo Development, LLC, MaCo Development LLC, II and Cohen and Cohen, LLC, according to Chris G. Cardwell, special agent in charge with the SBI’s financial crimes unit.

In March 2017, prior to the criminal investigation, Cohen’s business partners, Manuel Cohen, Robbie’s uncle, and Dustin Mason had filed a civil lawsuit against Robbie Cohen. A year prior to the suit Manuel Cohen and Mason suspected Robbie Cohen of bilking the shared businesses to finance personal expenses, such purchases as a house at Holden Beach.

According to court records, Manuel Cohen was the majority owner of the partnership with 50 percent interest. Robbie Cohen and Mason each owned 25 percent. Robbie Cohen was reportedly the bookkeeper in the business.

Robbie Cohen settled the suit with his partners on Aug. 25, 2017, just after the launch of the criminal investigation. Terms of the settlement were not a part of the case file with the Clerk of Court’s office.

Kim Cohen Dye, Manuel Cohen’s daughter, said Tuesday that Robbie Cohen forfeited his 25 percent interest of MaCo I to the other partners per the settlement agreement.

“Robbie gave up his 25 percent for all of his wrongdoings in that partnership,” Dye said.

Clodfelter referenced the civil settlement in his statement as a reason for not filing charges.

“It is the determination by the Stanly County District Attorney’s office, and the Chief Financial Crimes Prosecutor of the NCCDA that this civil action and settlement appropriately addressed and resolved the issues raised by the N.C. SBI investigation,” Clodfelter stated.

Dye countered, however, that she was advised by the SBI that the civil lawsuit would have no bearing on the criminal matter.

“We asked about the civil lawsuit,” Dye said. “We were told one had nothing to do with the other.”

Robbie Cohen issued a statement Friday that was shared on social media about the fact he would not face criminal charges.

“While I have always maintained my innocence and continue to so, my family and I are thankful to have this investigation behind us,” Robbie Cohen said.

Although the civil settlement affected MaCo I, there remains the issue of the other two companies, which could prompt additional civil action, Dye said.

Contact Ritchie Starnes at 704-754-5076 or ritchie.starnes@stanlynewspress.com.