DOJ – SC

DOJ - Department of Justice
DOJ - Department of Justice
  • Former Company Executive Sentenced to Over Four Years in Federal Prison for Construction Fraud Scheme
    Columbia, SC - United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Thomas Brock, age 62, of Camden, South Carolina, was sentenced to 51 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to wire fraud. According to information presented during his guilty plea and sentencing, Brock was involved in a decade-long scheme to defraud the government in the acquisition of military construction contracts. Under programs instituted by the United States Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), certain military and federal government contracts are specifically set aside for award to minorities, women, and service veterans. These programs are intended to provide small businesses with an opportunity for growth and experience working through the federal government.  Brock was an executive with Boykin Contracting and used various straw-owners within the company to pose as a female, an African-American, a disabled person, and a veteran in order to qualify for over $160 million dollars’ worth of these government construction contracts. Based on information presented in court, Brock illegally acquired the contracts and siphoned money from the company to support a lavish lifestyle. The scheme fell apart when Brock fraudulently acquired loans to cover the company’s losses and fell behind on the repayments, prompting a civil lawsuit and a criminal investigation. United States District Judge J. Michelle Childs of Columbia sentenced Brock to 51 months in federal prison, to be followed by three years of court-ordered supervision.  There is no parole in the federal system. “Companies who wish to obtain federal ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-04-22
    1 day ago
  • Man Pleads Guilty to Illegal Distribution of Oxycodone Resulting in the Death of Former University of South Carolina Student
    Columbia, South Carolina --- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Anthony James Edward Hunt, 24, of Columbia, South Carolina, pleaded guilty in federal court to the distribution of oxycodone resulting in death.         Evidence presented to the court showed that in January 2016, Hunt sold a former University of South Carolina student, named in the indictment as R.B., alprazolam tablets on January 24 and 26, 2016, after R.B. expressed her desire to commit suicide.  When the alprazolam tablets failed to cause R.B. to die, Hunt advised R.B. that she could take her life by ingesting oxycodone tablets, and he provided her with detailed instructions on how to consume the oxycodone pills.  On January 27, 2016, Hunt sold R.B. ten 30-milligram oxycodone tablets.  The next day, R.B. was found deceased in her apartment.  Experts opined that R.B.’s death was caused by an oxycodone overdose.  After his arrest, Hunt admitted to law enforcement that he distributed the oxycodone to R.B. knowing that she intended to commit suicide.         Hunt faces a maximum penalty of life in federal prison.  United States District Judge J. Michelle Childs of Columbia accepted the guilty plea and will sentence Hunt after receiving and reviewing a presentencing report prepared by the United States Probation Office.         “This case reveals the dangers associated with the illegal distribution of prescription drugs, particularly opioids,” said U.S. Attorney Lydon.  “The U.S. Attorney’s Office will never tire in our fight for justice for victims of unscrupulous drug dealers, and we ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-04-22
    1 day ago
  • Former SCDC Corrections Officer Sentenced to Federal Prison for Smuggling Contraband into Corrections Facility
    Columbia, South Carolina --- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that former South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) Officer Joshua Cave, 30, of Allendale, South Carolina, was sentenced to 6 months in federal prison and 6 months of probation after pleading guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Honest Services Wire Fraud.           Evidence presented to the court showed that SCDC inmates paid Cave bribes in exchange for smuggling alcohol into Allendale Correctional Institute. Evidence showed that Cave received at least ten bribes amounting to over one thousand dollars.           United States District Judge J. Michelle Childs of Columbia sentenced Cave to 6 months in federal prison and 6 months of probation, to be followed by a 2-year term of court-ordered supervision.            “We are grateful for the women and men at the South Carolina Department of Corrections who put on their uniform every day and work hard to protect inmates, prison staff, and the general public,” said U.S. Attorney Lydon.  “But this case should serve as a warning to those employees who would violate the public trust by smuggling contraband into our corrections facilities:  If you bring contraband into our prisons, you will end up in prison.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to stand with SCDC as we root out corruption in our prison system.”           “We will pursue prison time for any correctional officer or staff member who brings contraband into an SCDC institution,” S.C. Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling said.  “A correctional officer holds a ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-04-18
    5 days ago
  • 20 Year-Old Man Sentenced to Over 22 Years in Federal Prison for His Role in Lexington Home Invasion
    Columbia, South Carolina --- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Quintrell Morris, age 20, of Columbia, South Carolina, was sentenced to over 22 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery, conspiracy to use/carry/possess/brandish firearms during and in relation to and in furtherance of a crime of violence, use/carry/possess/brandish firearms during and in relation to and in furtherance of a crime of violence, and felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. Evidence presented to the court showed that in the early morning hours of December 30, 2017, deputies with the Lexington County Sheriff’s Office responded to 911 call referencing a home invasion on Maple View Drive. Upon approaching the residence, deputies noticed the door open, entered the home, and found two armed men, Morris and his co-defendant Brandon Thompson. After detaining both Morris and Thompson, deputies located a female, who had been tied up, and her children, one of whom had called 911. The female advised that they had forced her to open a safe and give them the money from it. Deputies seized a loaded Bushmaster AR-15 .223 caliber assault rifle from Morris and a loaded Smith & Wesson 9mm handgun from Thompson. A ballistic vest was also seized from Thompson’s vehicle, which was located nearby. The investigation revealed that Morris and Thompson went to this home in an effort to rob the homeowners of proceeds from various businesses they operated. Federal law prohibits both Morris and Thompson from ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-04-16
    1 week ago
  • Columbia Felon Sentenced to 7 Years in Federal Prison for Theft of Firearms
    Columbia, South Carolina --- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Cedrick K. Reddick, age 26, of Columbia, South Carolina, was sentenced to a total of 7 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to steal firearms from a federal firearms licensee (“FFL”) and to being a felon in possession of a firearm. Evidence presented to the court showed on August 5, 2016, a FFL in Sumter, South Carolina, was burglarized and approximately 75 handguns were stolen. The investigation revealed similarities between that burglary and other burglaries of liquor stores in several counties. Through the investigation, law enforcement was able to identify Reddick as one of the suspects after a DNA match linked him to a burglary of one of the liquor stores. Additionally, a search warrant at Reddick’s apartment revealed a 9mm handgun stolen during the burglary of the FFL. Both Reddick and his co-defendant Jonathan Thompson were charged federally with the gun store theft. Thompson is awaiting sentencing in federal court after previously pleading guilty. Federal law prohibits Reddick from possessing firearms based upon a prior South Carolina conviction for burglary 2nd degree and a prior New Jersey federal conviction for transportation of stolen firearms. At the time of this incident, Reddick was on federal supervised release after serving time on the prior New Jersey federal conviction.  Reddick’s prior federal supervision was revoked as a result of this new criminal conduct. United States District Judge J. Michelle Childs sentenced Reddick to a total of ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-04-16
    1 week ago
  • Greenwood Man Sentenced to 10 Years in Federal Prison for Murder for Hire with Hate Crime Enhancement
    Columbia, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Brandon Cory Lecroy, age 26, of Greenwood, South Carolina, was sentenced to ten years in the Federal Bureau of Prisons after pleading guilty to murder for hire.  United States District Judge Bruce Howe Hendricks of Charleston sentenced Lecroy to the statutory maximum for the offense, followed by three years of court-ordered supervision.  There is no parole in the federal system.  Evidence presented to the court established that the Federal Bureau of Investigation received information that Lecroy had contacted a white supremacist organization to seek assistance with the murder of his African American neighbor.  The FBI was able to direct Lecroy to an undercover agent, who posed as a hitman to determine if Lecroy was serious about causing harm to his neighbor.  On March 20, 2018, via a recorded telephone conversation, Lecroy made an arrangement with the undercover agent to pay for the murder of his neighbor.  During the phone call, Lecroy told the agent “$500 and he’s a ghost.”  In other words, Lecroy offered to pay $500 for the death of his neighbor.  In the same conversation, Lecroy also made a request to put a “flaming cross” in the front yard and have the neighbor hung from a tree.  Lecroy also made statements about taking over the neighbor’s property once the murder was accomplished.  On April 9, 2018, Lecroy met with the undercover agent in Greenwood.  During this meeting, Lecroy pointed out the neighbor’s residence and discussed ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-04-11
    2 weeks ago
  • U.S. Attorney Attends Pilot Test of Micro-Jamming Technology in South Carolina Prison
    Columbia, South Carolina --- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that the federal Bureau of Prisons conducted a pilot test of micro-jamming technology this week at the Broad River Correctional Institution in Columbia, South Carolina.  The test was the first collaboration of its kind in a state corrections facility.  It was conducted to determine if micro-jamming could disable cell signals and prevent wireless communication by inmates using contraband cellphones in a housing unit. “I am so encouraged by what I observed firsthand standing in a cellblock beside SCDC Director Bryan Stirling, as federal officials tested cellphone micro-jamming technology,” said U.S. Attorney Lydon.  “The technology was designed and deployed to block signals from contraband cellphones inside the prison, while ensuring that there was no interference with wireless signals used by the public outside the facility.  It is incredibly promising to see the potential for technology to address contraband cellphones in prisons, which for years have threatened our corrections and law enforcement officers and our community.” Contraband cellphones pose a significant safety threat to the general public, prison workers, and other inmates.  In partnership with the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina has brought a number of cases against both inmates using contraband phones to harm the public and SCDC employees smuggling contraband—including cellphones—into prisons.  For example, the office has recently prosecuted inmates who have used contraband phones to move large quantities ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-04-11
    2 weeks ago
  • South Carolina U.S. Attorney Announces Operation Dismantling One of the Largest Medicare Fraud Schemes in History
    Columbia, South Carolina --- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today one of the largest health care fraud schemes in the history of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG), and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID).  The announcement was made at a press conference at Palmetto GBA in Columbia, South Carolina, a Medicare administration contractor whose payment safeguarding services seek to eliminate Medicare abuse, fraud, and waste.  Operation Brace Yourself, which originated in South Carolina, has resulted in the execution of over 80 search warrants in 17 federal districts and charges against 24 defendants so far. These defendants include owners, managers, and others associated with six telemedicine companies, the owners of dozens of durable medical equipment (DME) companies, and three licensed medical professionals.  The alleged health care fraud scheme involves more than $1 billion in loss. “Simply put, the law applies equally to all in South Carolina,” said U.S. Attorney Lydon.  “The same spoon that serves indictments on drug dealers, felons in possession of firearms, and corrupt officials will also feed those companies and individuals who engage in Medicare fraud.  White collar crime is not victimless.  All taxpayers will endure the rising cost of health care premiums and out-of-pocket costs as a result of fraud on our Medicare system.  I am honored to stand with our partners at the FBI, HHS-OIG, and IRS-CID, who led this outstanding and nationally significant investigation from right here in ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-04-09
    2 weeks ago
  • Columbia Woman Sentenced to Federal Prison for Preparing False Tax Returns
    Columbia, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Marilyn Kirkland was sentenced in federal court after pleading guilty to aiding and assisting in the preparation of false income tax returns.  Senior United States District Judge Joseph F. Anderson, Jr., of Columbia, sentenced Kirkland to 27 months in federal prison. The judge further ordered that Kirkland repay $903,402 in restitution and, after her release from the Bureau of Prisons, that she serve one year of court-ordered supervision. Evidence presented to the court showed that from 2014 through 2016, Marilyn Kirkland operated a tax return preparation business in Columbia, South Carolina.  Kirkland fraudulently increased her clients’ tax refunds by preparing returns that reported fictitious income and expenses for businesses in order to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit.  Kirkland also included false education credits.  In total, Kirkland prepared approximately 500 fraudulent tax returns that included over $900,000 in false claims from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Agents of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division investigated the case.  Assistant United States Attorney John C. Potterfield of the Columbia office prosecuted the case. ##### ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-04-09
    2 weeks ago
  • Greenville Man Sentenced to 10 Years in Murder for Hire
    Greenville, South Carolina-------United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Travis Dale Brady, age 36, of Greenville, South Carolina, was sentenced in federal court in Greenville after pleading guilty to a murder for hire charge.  United States District Judge Bruce H. Hendricks sentenced Brady to the statutory maximum term of 120 months in federal prison, followed by court-ordered supervision.  There is no parole in the federal system. Evidence presented to the court established that Brady was terminated from his employment with a Greenville business in 2016.  In 2017, he began to make comments and plans indicating that he wanted to seek revenge on those he deemed responsible for his job loss.  As Brady made contact with various persons, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was notified and initiated an investigation.  During an approximately year-long investigation, Brady met with undercover FBI agents and confidential sources with whom he discussed plans that initially involved setting off a truck bomb at a business site of his former employer, but later evolved into sending a mail bomb to the home of a couple he deemed most responsible for his firing.  During the investigation, Brady sought the assistance of his colleagues.  Unknown to Brady at the time, those colleagues were undercover FBI agents and confidential sources.  The plan culminated on March 15, 2018, after Brady ordered a mail bomb from an undercover operative and then paid $100 to have the bomb placed in the mail.  It was Brady’s intent to have the bomb “exterminate” the ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-04-09
    2 weeks ago
  • Greenville Man Looking to Join ISIS Sentenced to 10 Years in Federal Prison on Gun Charge
    Greenville, South Carolina-------United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Michael Bruce Messer, Jr., age 51, of Greenville, South Carolina, was sentenced in federal court in Greenville after pleading guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm.  United States District Judge Bruce H. Hendricks sentenced Messer to the statutory maximum term of 120 months in federal prison, followed by court-ordered supervision.  There is no parole in the federal system. Evidence presented to the court established that on April 11, 2018, Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) went to Messer’s residence to meet with him.  While there, they recovered a .38 caliber pistol.  Then on May 9, 2018, Special Agents of the FBI and ATF returned to the residence with a search warrant and recovered another .38 caliber pistol, .38 caliber ammunition, and assorted items related to ISIS. During their investigation, the FBI had determined that Messer had posted a message in an online forum that he was interested in joining ISIS and volunteering to be a suicide bomber. Federal law prohibits Messer from possessing firearms based upon his prior state and federal convictions running from 1986 to 2018.  Messer’s prior convictions include grand larceny, burglary, forgery, and possession of a firearm by a felon. The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).  It was prosecuted as part of the joint federal, state, and ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-04-09
    2 weeks ago
  • Three Greenville Men Sentenced to Federal Prison for Armed Robbery
    Greenville, South Carolina---- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Mark Betancourt, age 35, Joseph Sansosti, age 26, and Juan Betancourt, age 26, all of Greenville, South Carolina, were sentenced in federal court after pleading guilty to Hobbs Act Robbery, Conspiracy to Commit Hobbs Act Robbery, and Brandishing a Firearm in Furtherance of Hobbs Act Robbery.  Senior United States District Judge Henry M. Herlong, Jr., of Greenville, sentenced Mark Betancourt to 180 months in federal prison, Sansosti to 135 months in federal prison, and Juan Betancourt to 48 months in federal prison.  There is no parole in the federal system.  Each man was also sentenced to five years of supervised release and ordered to forfeit $37,283.00. Evidence presented to the court established that in May 2015, Mark Betancourt recruited his brother, Juan Betancourt, who was nearly ten years Mark’s junior, to assist him in robbing a business in Greenville, South Carolina. On May 23, 2015, Sansosti arranged to meet with Mark and Juan Betancourt. Mark Betancourt was the mastermind of the operation and drove the two younger men to the business. Sansosti and Juan Betancourt entered the store, where Sansosti placed one of the employees in a choke hold and held a gun to her head. Sansosti then dragged the employee over to the register, where the robbers took the money. The case was investigated by the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.  It was prosecuted as part of the joint ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-04-08
    2 weeks ago
  • Simpsonville Felon Found in Possession of Over a Kilogram of Methamphetamine Sentenced to 20 Years in Federal Prison
    Greenville, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Larry Anthony Ladson, Jr., 29 years old, of Simpsonville, South Carolina, who was convicted by a federal jury of possessing 500 grams or more of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute in October 2018, was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison.  There is no parole in the federal system.   The evidence presented at trial showed that in March 2018, Ladson was found hiding in a bathtub when officers with the Fountain Inn Police Department were performing a protective sweep of a residence located in Simpsonville.  Law enforcement originally arrived on scene after receiving a report of a domestic incident involving a firearm.  After initially detaining three other individuals who were connected with the location, officers were clearing the residence when they discovered Ladson fully clothed in the bathtub with the lights off at approximately 2:45 p.m.  In the adjacent bedroom, law enforcement found Ladson’s driver’s license along with other identifying documents, in addition to a digital scale and clear plastic baggies used for drug packaging in plain view.  Upon obtaining a search warrant, a further search of the bedroom revealed over 1,000 grams of methamphetamine packaged in 19 separate bags, which were concealed in a backpack and hidden under layers of Ladson’s clothes in his closet.  The majority of the bags contained approximately 56 grams of the clear, crystal substance and were packaged for distribution in two-ounce quantities. At the time of the incident, Ladson already had ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-04-08
    2 weeks ago
  • Orangeburg Felon Sentenced to Maximum on Federal Gun Charge
    Columbia, South Carolina --- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Eugene Jonathan James, age 21, of Orangeburg, South Carolina, was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. Evidence presented to the court showed that at approximately 12:36 a.m. on May 27, 2017, officers with the Cayce Department of Public Safety were running radar on Knox Abbott Drive when they observed a car traveling 15-20 mph over the speed limit. After activating their blue lights and siren in an attempt to conduct a traffic stop, a chase ensued across the Blossom Street Bridge into Columbia. At one point, the driver of the car appeared to stop, but when officers approached, the car sped off again. Ultimately, the car stopped near the Riverwalk and the sole occupant/driver, later identified as James, fled on foot, disregarding officers’ commands for him to stop. James fled into the woodline off the Riverwalk and assumed a crouched position. He appeared to the officers to be lying in wait for them. After threatening to use his taser to get James to comply, one officer heard gunshots and felt pain. That officer, who was wearing a bulletproof vest, was shot in the chest and leg, and the other officer was shot in his leg. Officers returned fire and called for backup assistance. Responding officers located James in the woodline with a .40 caliber Smith and Wesson lying at his feet. James had also ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-04-08
    2 weeks ago
  • U.S. Attorney to Join Federal Law Enforcement for Press Conference Tomorrow at 12:00 p.m.
    Columbia, South Carolina --- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that a press conference will be held tomorrow, Tuesday, April 9, 2019, at 12:00 p.m., at Palmetto GBA, 17 Technology Circle, Columbia, SC 29203. Represented at the press conference will be the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General, and the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigations. WHEN:       Tuesday, April 9, 2019, at 12:00 p.m. WHERE:      Palmetto GBS                           17 Technology Circle                           Columbia, SC 29203 NOTE:  Press inquiries regarding logistics should be directed to Lance Crick, 864-282-2105.  All media must present a government-issued photo ID (such as a driver’s license).  Members of the media wishing to attend the remarks should gather in the lobby of Palmetto GBS at 11:30 a.m., 30 minutes in advance. ##### ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-04-07
    2 weeks ago
  • “Let States Jam Prison Cellphones,” says U.S. Attorney Sherri Lydon
    Columbia, South Carolina --- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon authored today an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal highlighting the public safety threat posed by contraband cellphones in prisons entitled, “Let States Jam Prison Cellphones.”  U.S. Attorney Lydon also announced a series of cases the U.S. Attorney’s Office has prosecuted in federal court to help stop the flow of contraband cellphones into state prisons and punish those who use them to harm the public. “We do not put criminals behind bars only to have them continue their criminal enterprises from inside prison,” said U.S. Attorney Lydon.  “We will continue to use every tool available to us to stop this threat to public safety.  But until our state and local partners are permitted to jam cellphone signals in prisons, inmates with time on their hands and unrestricted access to the Internet will continue to run drug rings, scam innocent Americans, and perpetrate crimes that help them grow their wealth while incarcerated.” South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) Director Bryan Stirling stated, “Because of contraband cellphones, criminals are physically incarcerated, however, they are virtually out there amongst us, continuing their criminal ways from behind our nation’s prison walls.”  Among the cases the U.S. Attorney’s Office has prosecuted with the assistance of SCDC and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) are: SCDC Prisoner and Co-Conspirator Sentenced to Federal Prison for Roles in Dark Web Mail Bomb Plot In April 2018, a federal jury convicted Michael Young, Jr., and Vance Volious, ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-04-03
    3 weeks ago
  • U.S. Attorney's Office to Host Greater Upstate Reentry Job Fair & Expo to Help Secure Employment for Individuals with Criminal Records
    Greenville, South Carolina – United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that the United States Attorney’s Office; the South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services; SC Works; SC Vocational Rehabilitation; SC Department of Employment and Workforce; SC Department of Social Services; and the United States Probation Office are continuing their statewide partnership to help individuals with prior criminal backgrounds secure employment. The Third Annual Greater Upstate Reentry Job Fair & Expo will be held Wednesday, April 10, 2019, from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, at McAlister Square, located at 225 S. Pleasantburg Drive, Greenville, SC. This job fair, which is intended as a resource for Upstate residents, is part of a series of events held annually in Florence, the Midlands, the Lowcountry, and the Upstate.  The partner organizations have tailored the expo to help people with a criminal record overcome the particular obstacles they face after returning home. The fair and expo will include area employers friendly to hiring individuals with a criminal background and other organizations who provide resources for returning citizens.  Professional dress is required.  As always, the event will feature workshops on how to seek expungements and pardons of prior criminal convictions.  Interested employers or vendors should inquire with Diana Goldwire at (864) 315-9751 or [email protected]. ###### ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-04-02
    3 weeks ago
  • Gray Court Felon Sentenced to More Than Two Years in Federal Prison on Gun Charge
    Florence, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Derrick Bernard Cunningham, age 48, of Gray Court, South Carolina, was sentenced in federal court after pleading guilty to being a Felon in Possession of a Firearm.  Chief United States District Judge R. Bryan Harwell of Florence sentenced Cunningham to 27 months in federal prison, followed by 3 years of court-ordered supervision.  There is no parole in the federal system. Evidence presented at Cunningham’s guilty plea hearing established that on May 26, 2018, a lieutenant with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) located Cunningham, who was wanted for outstanding warrants, at a hotel in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  Cunningham was detained and placed in handcuffs, and the lieutenant noted that Cunningham continually tried to roll onto his left side.  The lieutenant observed a heavy object in a pocket of the vest Cunningham was wearing.  Cunningham claimed he did not know whether the object was a firearm and that he had borrowed the vest from a friend.  A search revealed a Jiminez .380 caliber handgun, loaded with six rounds of ammunition.  Federal law prohibits Cunningham from possessing firearms because he has prior state convictions for grand larceny, burglary, and armed robbery.    The charges against Cunningham were the result of an investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), SLED, and the North Myrtle Beach Police Department.  This case was prosecuted as part of the joint federal, state, and local Project CeaseFire initiative, which ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-04-01
    3 weeks ago
  • Former South Carolina Resident Pleads Guilty to Charity Fraud Scheme Targeting Marine Corps Families
    Charleston, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that John Shannon Simpson, age 43, of Lee County, Florida, has entered a guilty plea in federal court to Wire Fraud.  United States District Judge David C. Norton of Charleston accepted the guilty plea and will impose sentence after he has received and reviewed a presentence report prepared by the United States Probation Office. Evidence presented to the court established that in May 2014, Simpson founded a charitable organization entitled “Marines and Mickey” and served as the President.  The purpose of the charity was to provide funds to selected United States Marines Corps (USMC) service members and their families to defray their costs of visiting the Walt Disney Resorts. The charity was also supposed to provide funds to the families of newly graduated Marines to defray the families’ costs of attending USMC boot camp graduations, including some held at Parris Island, South Carolina, and San Diego, California. The charity claimed in its promotions and requests for money that 100% of the donations went directly to Marines and their families through the charity’s programs. The charity actively solicited donations on and near the USMC base in Parris Island, South Carolina, and elsewhere. The remainder of monies raised by the charity were a combination of private and corporate donations to the charity, including by USMC recruits and recent boot camp graduates. While acting as the charity’s President and in support of fundraising for the charity, Simpson falsely represented himself as ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-03-31
    3 weeks ago
  • U.S. Attorney’s Office Kicks Off 28th Annual Seminar Series on School Safety
    Columbia, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that this week, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina kicked off its 28th Annual Safe Schools Seminars Series in Greer, West Columbia, and Florence.  The Safe Schools Seminars bring together law enforcement and school personnel charged with protecting children—such as superintendents, administrators, counselors, school resource officers, nurses, and social workers—to discuss some of the safety issues today’s students face.  Following this week’s seminars, U.S. Attorney Lydon stated, “As we join with Walterboro in mourning the loss of a precious young life this week, we are reminded of the weight of our responsibility to ensure schools are a safe place for students to learn and grow.  Through our Safe Schools partnership, we will continue working toward that goal.  I am grateful to our law enforcement partners and educators across the state who work tirelessly to protect our students.” Topic sessions during the Safe Schools Seminars include De-Escalation in the Education Environment; Behavior Threat Assessment; Vaping: How It’s Affecting Our Youth; and Don’t Get Sued: Protecting Educators, Administrators, and SROs from Liabilities. The Safe Schools Seminars are hosted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Officers Association, the South Carolina Department of Education, the Francis Marion University Police Department, the West Columbia Police Department, the Lexington Police Department, the Greer Police Department, and the North Charleston Police Department. Upcoming Safe Schools Seminars will be in Lexington on April 16, and North Charleston on ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-03-28
    4 weeks ago
  • Lancaster County Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Court to Illegally Possessing a Gun
    Columbia, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Deangelo Raheem Roseboro, age 25, of Lancaster, South Carolina, entered a guilty plea in federal court to possession of a firearm by a person who had been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a year.  United States District Judge J. Michelle Childs of Columbia accepted the guilty plea and will impose sentence after she has received and reviewed a presentence report prepared by the United States Probation Office. Evidence presented to the court established that on December 6, 2017, a Lancaster County deputy made a routine traffic stop on a vehicle driven by Roseboro.   As the deputy approached the vehicle, he saw Roseboro reaching in the floor board of the passenger side of the vehicle.  The deputy asked Roseboro for his driver’s license, insurance, and registration.  Roseboro stated the car belonged to his uncle and that he only had a driver’s permit, which he did not have with him.  The deputy told Roseboro that he smelled marijuana and asked why he was reaching into the floorboard of the vehicle. Roseboro told the deputy that there was no marijuana in the car but that there was a gun in the car that belonged to his uncle.  As the deputy tried to get Roseboro out of the car to detain him, Roseboro ran away.  After a brief search, Roseboro was found hiding in a friend’s apartment.  Deputies searched the vehicle and found a fully loaded SCCY, model ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-03-28
    4 weeks ago
  • Law Enforcement Officers Charged in Federal Court With Taking Bribes to Falsify Immigration Documents and Protect Drug Trafficking Proceeds
    Columbia, South Carolina --- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that nine individuals, including seven law enforcement officers, have been indicted in federal court in South Carolina on visa fraud and drug charges. One of the schemes alleged in the Indictment involved fraudulent U Nonimmigrant Visas (“U-Visas”), which are set aside for victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse as a result of the crime.  To obtain a U-Visa, a law enforcement official must certify that the alien is assisting that law enforcement agency in the investigation or prosecution of the crime of which the alien was a victim.  According to the Indictment, four officers helped individuals obtain fraudulent U-Visas by taking bribes for fraudulent certifications and creating fraudulent incident reports indicating that aliens were victims of crimes. The Indictment further alleges that officers took bribes in exchange for protecting methamphetamine and cocaine or the proceeds of drug trafficking. The charges as to each defendant are: Springfield Police Department Chief Lacra Sharod Jenkins: Conspiracy, Visa Fraud, Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances, and Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime; Springfield Police Department Officer Allan Hunter, Jr.: Conspiracy, Visa Fraud, Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances, and Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime; Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Carolyn Colter Franklin: Conspiracy, Visa Fraud, Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances, and Possession of a Firearm in ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-03-28
    4 weeks ago
  • McBee Men Sentenced to Federal Prison Following Theft of 69 Firearms from Federal Firearms Licensee
    Florence, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Larry Eugene Alford, 30, and Dale Carroll Drew Oneal, 24, both of McBee, South Carolina, were sentenced in federal court for gun and drug charges.  Alford was sentenced to 100 months in federal prison, followed by 5 years of court-ordered supervision, after pleading guilty to being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.  Oneal was sentenced to 60 months in federal prison, followed by 3 years of court-ordered supervision, after pleading guilty to being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition and possession of 69 stolen firearms.  Chief United States District Judge R. Bryan Harwell of Florence sentenced both defendants.  There is no parole in the federal system. Evidence presented to the court at Oneal’s guilty plea hearing established that on November 14, 2017, two subjects wearing camouflage-colored clothing and masks and carrying a large cardboard box and blue tote bag broke into and burglarized a Federal Firearms Licensee in Patrick, South Carolina.  The subjects stole 69 firearms.  The Darlington County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant at a house where a witness saw Oneal and Alford on the day of the burglary with a blue tote bag and a large cardboard box.  Deputies found camouflage-colored clothing, a blue tote bag, and two firearms stolen from the FFL burglary, along with five other firearms.  On November 17, 2017, Oneal was arrested on a ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-03-26
    4 weeks ago
  • Columbia Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Firearm Charge
    Columbia, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Wilbert Green, Jr., age 30, of Columbia, South Carolina, pleaded guilty in federal court to being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. Evidence presented in court established that at approximately 8:45 p.m. on April 13, 2018, officers of the Columbia Police Department and the Midlands Gang Unit were patrolling the Lorick Circle area of Columbia with special agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) after having received several firearm-related reports the previous month. As they drove through an apartment complex on Lorick Circle, officers/agents observed what appeared to be a black pistol magazine protruding from Green’s right rear pants pocket. Officers/agents exited their vehicles and made contact with Green, who was also holding an open container of beer, in violation of the open container law. Green failed to comply with directives of officers/agents to quit reaching behind to his back pocket and to turn around and put his hands on a nearby car. Green advised officers/agents, “I know the law….I just got out of prison.” Officers secured Green and located a loaded Hi-Point 9mm with an extended magazine in Green’s rear right pants pocket. A ballistics analysis revealed that the Hi-Point 9mm handgun was linked to shell casings recovered from an unsolved July 2017 shooting off Garners Ferry Road. Officers/agents also learned that Green had outstanding warrants from 2015 for attempted murder and possession of a weapon during a violent ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-03-26
    4 weeks ago
  • Federal Grand Jury Returns Indictment in $300 Million Nationwide Investment Fraud and Ponzi Scheme
    Greenville, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that a Federal Grand Jury in Greenville, South Carolina, returned an Indictment alleging a conspiracy to engage in mail and wire fraud.  Scott A. Kohn, age 64, of Newport, California, and Future Income Payments, LLC (FIP), an entity organized under the laws of Nevada, are charged in the Indictment.  According to the Indictment, FIP operated a Ponzi scheme in which it actively recruited pension holders who were desperate for money, including many veterans of the United States Armed Forces.  The pensioners made monthly payments to FIP in exchange for a lump sum payment or loan.  The adjusted annual percentage rate on these transactions often exceeded 100%. FIP then solicited investors to purchase “structured cash flows,” which were the pensioners’ monthly pension payments.  FIP promised the investors a rate of return between 6.5% and 8%.  It took active steps to conceal from the investors the usurious nature of its transactions with the pension holders.  FIP diverted new investor funds flowing into the business to fund payments to earlier investors in order to keep the scheme operational.  When FIP ceased doing business in early 2018, investors were owed approximately $300 million.  The scheme alleged in the Indictment victimized over 2,600 individuals. “The scheme alleged in this Indictment took advantage of pensioners facing difficult financial situations – including veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces – and preyed upon innocent investors to the tune of roughly $300 million,” said U.S. Attorney Lydon.  ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-03-26
    4 weeks ago
  • Hanahan Man Sentenced to Over 11 Years in Federal Prison for Using a Gun in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime
    Charleston, South Carolina---- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Valdimere Rasheen Rivers, age 30, of Hanahan, South Carolina, was sentenced in federal court after pleading guilty to possessing firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.  United States District Judge Richard M. Gergel of Charleston sentenced Rivers to 137 months in federal prison, to be followed by 2 years of court-ordered supervision. Evidence presented to the court showed that agents of the U.S. Postal Service alerted the Charleston County Sheriff's Office and the Hanahan Police Department that Rivers was receiving suspicious packages from California, and he was arrested while returning from the post office with a box of marijuana in his vehicle. When officers stopped Rivers, he texted his girlfriend with instructions to retrieve money and additional marijuana from the couple's townhouse. As a surveillance team closed in on the residence, Rivers’ girlfriend dropped a container of marijuana into a nearby dumpster and loaded thousands of dollars of cash into one of Rivers' cars. She was arrested, and a search of the townhouse revealed additional marijuana and a loaded revolver. An additional shipment of marijuana addressed to one of Rivers' relatives was also intercepted. In all, authorities seized over five pounds of marijuana and more than $4,500.00 in cash. The case was investigated by agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the United States Postal Service, the Charleston County Sheriff's Office, and the Hanahan Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Chris Schoen of ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-03-24
    1 month ago
  • Greenville Woman Sentenced to 4 Years in Federal Prison Following Second Counterfeiting Conviction
    Greenville, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Jessica A. Dishinger, age 24, of Greenville, South Carolina, was sentenced in federal court after pleading guilty to manufacturing counterfeit money.  United States District Judge J. Michelle Childs sentenced Dishinger to 48 months in federal prison, followed by three years of court-ordered supervision.  This was Dishinger’s second federal counterfeiting conviction.  Evidence presented to the court established that in the summer of 2018, Dishinger passed counterfeit federal reserve notes at various locations throughout the Upstate of South Carolina.  Based on a local investigation, Greenville City Police officers developed probable cause and executed a search warrant on Dishinger’s home.  Officers located in Dishinger’s bedroom resume paper, a paper cutter, and a deskjet printer—all of which are commonly used to manufacture counterfeit money.  In addition, officers found multiple counterfeit federal reserve notes hidden throughout the premises.  Dishinger manufactured the counterfeit notes to help fund her consumption of methamphetamine.   The case was investigated by agents with the Greenville City Police Department and the United States Secret Service.  Assistant United States Attorney Bill Watkins of the Greenville office prosecuted the case. ##### ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-03-18
    1 month ago
  • Gang Leader and Co-Conspirators Collectively Sentenced to Nearly 55 Years in Federal Prison
    Florence, South Carolina --- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that nine defendants, including six current or former members of a criminal street gang, were sentenced in federal court on drug and firearms violations. During the sentencing hearings, United States District Judge Bruce Howe Hendricks characterized the gang as one of the most dangerous criminal organizations the federal government has prosecuted in the Florence and Myrtle Beach areas in many years. Assistant United States Attorney Andy Moorman presented evidence to the Court that overwhelmingly established that Barbara Landy, age 27, was the leader of a subset of a national criminal street gang, and she communicated directly with a national gang leader who was incarcerated in the Western part of the United States.  As the leader, or four star general, in charge, Landy directed drug shipments, assisted in the trafficking of weapons, and ordered the payment of “homage,” or dues by inferior gang members.  For her leadership role in this dangerous and violent gang, the Court sentenced Landy to 210 months in federal prison. The Court also sentenced Joshua Randall, age 31, to 195 months in federal prison.  Evidence demonstrated that Randall was a lieutenant in the gang who reported directly to Landy and sold kilogram quantities of heroin and/or fentanyl to customers in the Myrtle Beach and Florence areas.  During the course of the investigation, police arrested Randall on two separate occasions while in possession of guns and drugs. Lee Tracy Riggins, age 27, was also a member ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-03-18
    1 month ago
  • Oconee Woman Sentenced to 18 Years in Federal Prison on Meth Charge
    Greenville, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Tabitha A. Hammond, age 37, of Seneca, South Carolina, was sentenced in federal court after pleading guilty to possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine.  United States District Judge Donald C. Coggins of Spartanburg sentenced Hammond to 216 months in federal prison.  Evidence presented to the court established that on August 8, 2017, an Oconee County deputy sheriff was patrolling in the Fair Play area when he observed a vehicle turn without signaling and then turn quickly into a residence before he could initiate a traffic stop.  The vehicle stopped at the residence for just a few minutes and resumed travel.  Upon observing a defective break light, he initiated a traffic stop.  There were four persons in the car and no one had a valid driver’s license with them.  The deputy observed much suspicious behavior, including extreme nervousness, attempts to hide the contents of various bags, and one passenger giving indications of flight.  The deputy received consent to search from the driver and located more than five pounds of methamphetamine in a bag belonging to Hammond.  After being given her Miranda warnings, Hammond admitted to engaging in drug trafficking activity. This case was investigated by the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.  Assistant United States Attorney Bill Watkins of the Greenville office prosecuted the case. ##### ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-03-12
    1 month ago
  • Greer Man Sentenced to 10 Years in Federal Prison on Child Pornography Charge
    Greenville, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Keith D. Cook, age 38, of Greer, South Carolina, was sentenced in federal court after pleading guilty to possession of child pornography.  United States District Judge Donald C. Coggins, of Spartanburg, sentenced Cook to 10 years in federal prison and ordered that he serve 20 years under court-ordered supervision after his prison sentence is complete.  Evidence presented to the court established that on January 18, 2017, law enforcement executed a search warrant at Cook’s home after receiving information that he was uploading child pornography to a mobile device.  Law enforcement recovered Cook’s cell phone and located multiple images of child pornography, some involving prepubescent minors.  Cook was questioned and admitted to downloading the child pornography that led to the search warrant.  More child pornography was discovered on a work computer at Cook’s place of business.    The case was investigated by agents with the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office and the ICE – Homeland Security Investigations. Assistant United States Attorney Bill Watkins of the Greenville office prosecuted the case. This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys Offices, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as identify and rescue victims. For more information, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov. ##### ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-03-12
    1 month ago
  • Lancaster Man Sentenced to Nearly 10 Years in Federal Prison for Firearm Charge
    Columbia, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Jamarcus Dontaye Patterson, age 36, of Lancaster, South Carolina, was sentenced to 115 months (9.5 years) in federal prison after pleading guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. Following the term of imprisonment, Patterson will be on federal supervised release for 3 years. Senior United States District Judge Terry L. Wooten, of Columbia, imposed the sentence. Evidence presented in court established that on July 13, 2018, deputies with the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office responded to the area of Plyler and Duke Streets after receiving a call that Jamarcus Patterson had pointed a firearm at someone. Deputies observed Patterson, who had outstanding state warrants at the time, walking down Plyler Street. When deputies approached, Patterson fled on foot. He was apprehended shortly thereafter, and deputies recovered a loaded Hi-Point .40 caliber pistol. At the time of the July offense, Patterson was on state bond for a December 24, 2017, weapon charge stemming from an incident at a residence in Lancaster wherein he was found in possession of a Beretta 9mm handgun, which had been stolen from the Lancaster National Guard Armory in November 2017. Patterson was arrested on new state charges, and a federal arrest warrant and complaint was issued charging Patterson with both weapon offenses. Patterson entered a guilty plea to the July 2018 weapon charge. Following a contested sentencing hearing, the court increased Patterson’s sentence in light of evidence produced by the ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-03-12
    1 month ago
  • 26 Charged in Series of Federal Indictments in South Carolina and Georgia for Drugs, Illegal Firearms
    Aiken, South Carolina --- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that 26 individuals, many of them associates of a violent criminal street gang, have been indicted on drug and firearms charges after a series of investigations in South Carolina and Georgia. The investigation and arrests were announced in a joint press conference held at the Aiken Department of Public Safety by the United States Attorney’s Offices for the District of South Carolina and the Southern District of Georgia. The investigation was initiated by the Regional Anti-Gang Enforcement (RAGE) Task Force of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).  It began in 2017 as an investigation of a member of a criminal street gang who is alleged to have coordinated continued criminal activity while being held in the Aiken County Detention Center awaiting retrial for murder in a 2008 drug-related home invasion. From 2017 to the present, ATF agents in South Carolina and Georgia identified multiple targets in the investigation, many of them linked by association with the street gang.  Nine defendants were named in three separate indictments by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Georgia, while 17 additional defendants have been indicted in the District of South Carolina. “We will not stand by and let violent criminal enterprises continue victimizing our communities,” said U.S. Attorney Lydon.  “The U.S. Attorney’s Office in South Carolina is locking arms with our law enforcement partners, and we will spare no resource to take back our neighborhoods from ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-03-11
    1 month ago
  • Four South Carolina Men Sentenced for International Wildlife Smuggling
    Columbia, South Carolina --- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Steven Verren Baker, 38, of Holly Hill, South Carolina, was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to participating in a Conspiracy to Smuggle Wildlife.  Senior United States District Judge Joseph F. Anderson, Jr., of Columbia, imposed the sentence and ordered Baker to forfeit $263,225.00 in proceeds. On February 27, 2019, Joseph Logan Brooks, 29, formerly of Holly Hill, was sentenced to five months incarceration and five months home confinement for his participation in the conspiracy.  Likewise, on March 1, 2019, fellow conspirator Matthew Tyler Fischer, 26, of Holly Hill, was sentenced to six months home confinement and two years’ probation.  William Fischer, age 48, of Harleyville, South Carolina, was sentenced to two years’ probation and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine for a misdemeanor Wildlife Trafficking violation.  All three participated in or facilitated Baker’s efforts.    Matthew Harrison Kail, age 30, of Pomona Park, Florida, and William Thomas Gangemi, age 26, of Freehold, New Jersey, have both pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.   Evidence presented previously established that Baker was the ringleader of an international syndicate of wildlife smugglers exchanging turtles protected by international agreements back and forth between the United States and China.  The activity took place from January through June 2016.  Baker obtained protected turtles from Hong Kong to distribute here in the United States, and he shipped protected turtles from the United States to Asia.  The transactions were set up using ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-03-11
    1 month ago
  • District of South Carolina Takes Part in Largest-Ever Nationwide Elder Fraud Sweep
    Columbia, South Carolina – Attorney General William P. Barr and United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon today announced the largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in history, surpassing last year’s nationwide sweep. The cases during this sweep involved more than 260 defendants from around the globe who victimized more than two million Americans, most of them elderly. “Crimes against the elderly target some of the most vulnerable people in our society,” Attorney General William P. Barr said. “But thanks to the hard work of our agents and prosecutors, as well as our state and local partners, the Department of Justice is protecting our seniors from fraud. The Trump administration has placed a renewed focus on prosecuting those who prey on the elderly, and the results of today’s sweep make that clear. Today we are announcing the largest single law enforcement action against elder fraud in American history. This year’s sweep involves 13 percent more criminal defendants, 28 percent more in losses, and twice the number of fraud victims as last year’s sweep. I want to thank the Department’s Consumer Protection Branch, which led this effort, together with the Department’s Criminal Division, the more than 50 U.S. Attorneys’ offices, and the state and local partners who helped to make these results possible. Together, we are bringing justice and peace of mind to America's seniors.” United States Attorney Lydon stated, “Our office is fully committed to the protection of the elderly as a part of the national Elder Fraud Initiative (EFI).  ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-03-10
    1 month ago
  • Local, State, and Federal Law Enforcement will Join State Prosecutors and U.S. Attorneys From South Carolina and the Southern District of Georgia at a Press Conference Tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. in Aiken, South Carolina
    Columbia, South Carolina --- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that a press conference will be held tomorrow, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, at the Aiken Public Safety Department, J. Carroll Busbee Headquarters, 834 Beaufort Street NE, Aiken, SC 29801.  Represented at the press conference will be members of the Aiken Department of Public Safety; Aiken County Sheriff’s Office; North Augusta Department of Public Safety; South Carolina Law Enforcement Division; South Carolina Department of Probation, Pardon, and Parole Services; Richmond County (GA) Sheriff’s Office; Burke County (GA) Sheriff’s Office; the United States Marshals Service; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); Second Circuit (SC) Solicitor’s Office; District Attorney’s Office (Augusta Judicial Circuit); and the United States Attorney’s Offices from the Southern District of Georgia and South Carolina.  NOTE:  Press inquiries regarding logistics should be directed to Lance Crick, 864-282-2105.  All media must present a government-issued photo ID (such as a driver’s license).  Members of the media wishing to attend should gather at the media staging area at 2:00 p.m., 30 minutes in advance of the press conference. Media Staging Area: Aiken Public Safety Department, J. Carroll Busbee Headquarters, 834 Beaufort Street NE, Aiken, SC 29801 ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-03-10
    1 month ago
  • Former Fifth Circuit Director of Communications Sentenced in Federal Court for Fraud
    Columbia, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Nicole Halliett Holland, age 50, former Director of Communications for the Fifth Circuit Solicitor’s Office and a resident of Columbia, South Carolina, was sentenced to three years probation after pleading guilty to committing Wire Fraud and Mail Fraud.  Senior United States District Court Judge Cameron McGowan Currie presided.  Holland also was ordered to pay $11,164.60 in restitution to the Solicitor’s Office. Facts presented in court established that from 2011 to March 2018, Holland was employed by Daniel Edward Johnson at the Fifth Circuit Solicitor’s Office. During her time of employment, Nicole Holland used Solicitor’s Office funds to pay for personal expenses. Using a Solicitor’s Office credit card issued to her for office-related expenses, she made the following unauthorized purchases, among others: •        In May 2017, various hotel stays at the Hampton Inn and Suites in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, totaling over $2,700. These charges correlate to Count 11 of the Indictment, which is the wire fraud for the August 7, 2017, payment covering these personal expenses. •        In March 2017, a $1,020 expense for a family member’s orthodontics treatment that Holland labelled as “tournament sponsorship.” This charge correlates to Count 19, the mailing of the Bank of America statement ending on March 8, 2017, which contained this expense.     The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) investigated the case.  Assistant United States Attorneys Winston D. Holliday, Jr., Alyssa L. Richardson, and William C. Lewis ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-03-10
    1 month ago
  • United States Attorney Lydon Hosts Discussion on China’s Threat to America’s National Security
    Columbia, South Carolina --- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that she hosted a discussion entitled, “China’s Threat to Our National Security: An Economic and Private Sector Perspective.”  The discussion featured William R. Evanina, Director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) in Washington, DC; Douglas Hemminghaus, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of National Security and Cyber in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Columbia field office; and David P. Burns, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Department of Justice’s National Security Division.  In this first-of-its-kind meeting, NCSC and the Justice Department briefed members of the legal and business communities, heads of chambers of commerce, academics, and legislators about China’s threats to our nation’s economic prosperity. More than 90% of the Department of Justice’s cases alleging economic espionage over the past seven years involved China.  Over two-thirds of the Department’s cases involving thefts of trade secrets are connected to China. The talk aimed to educate attendees about economic threats posed by China, build bridges between law enforcement and law-abiding members of the business community, and ensure that attendees and their employers know that the federal government stands ready to help should they face data breaches, insider threats, or trade secret theft.   “The Department of Justice and the FBI will use all available tools to respond to China’s economic aggression and the threat that these actions pose to the prosperity and security of the United States and other nations that respect the rule of law,” said U.S. Attorney ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-03-10
    1 month ago
  • Serial Robber Pleads Guilty in Federal Court to Seven Robberies in North and South Carolina
    Columbia, South Carolina --- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Ron Luclaire Houser, 42, of Mathews, North Carolina, pleaded guilty in federal court to seven counts of Hobbs Act robbery and two counts of brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. Evidence presented to the court showed that Houser committed multiple armed robberies from November 2016 through January 2018 throughout North and South Carolina. In all, Houser robbed six Dollar General stores and a gas station. The robberies occurred in Fort Mill, Lancaster, and Lugoff, South Carolina, and Monroe and Ansonville, North Carolina. In each robbery, Houser threatened employees at gunpoint. Houser faces of maximum penalty of life in federal prison.  Senior United States District Judge Cameron M. Currie accepted the guilty plea and will sentence him after receiving and reviewing a presentencing report prepared by the United States Probation Office. The charges against Houser were the result of an extensive and coordinated investigation between the Federal Bureau of Investigation the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office, Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office, and Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office of South Carolina and the Union County Sheriff’s Office, Stanly County Sheriff’s Office, Oakboro Police Department, Thomasville Police Department, and Stallings Police Department in North Carolina. This case was prosecuted as part of the joint federal, state, and local Project CeaseFire initiative, which aggressively prosecutes firearm cases. Project CeaseFire is South Carolina’s implementation of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts.  PSN ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-03-10
    1 month ago
  • Thomas Lawton Evans Jr. Sentenced to Three Consecutive Life Terms in Federal Prison
    Charleston, South Carolina --- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Thomas Lawton Evans, Jr., 38, of Boiling Springs, South Carolina, was sentenced to three consecutive life terms in federal prison after pleading guilty to Kidnapping Involving a Person Under the Age of 18, Transportation of a Minor to Engage in Sexual Activity, and Aggravated Sexual Abuse of a Person under the age of Twelve.  United States District Court Judge David Norton of Charleston imposed the sentence. Facts presented to the court established that Evans followed a family into their Johns Island, South Carolina, home on February 13, 2018, then brutally assaulted and injured an adult resident.  As she was assaulted, the resident told her four-year-old daughter to run, and the four-year-old hid in an upstairs bedroom, where she attempted to also hide her two-year-old brother.  Evans went upstairs and kidnapped the four-year-old, placing her in the trunk of his car.  He then drove with the girl through South Carolina and Georgia and into Alabama, where he was located by the Riverside Police Department.  Riverside Police Department Chief Rick Oliver was able to separate the young girl from Evans before Evans sped away in a car.  Evans was arrested later the same day in Jackson, Mississippi, after a police pursuit.  “Thomas Evans’ attack on this family was a random, evil act,” said U.S. Attorney Lydon.  “But it would be the last random act in the story.  For there would be nothing random about the excellent work of the ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-03-05
    2 months ago
  • Orangeburg Man Pleads to Federal Firearm Charge
    Columbia, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Keycon Deonte Keitt, age 32, of Orangeburg, South Carolina, pleaded guilty in federal court to being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. Evidence presented in court showed that on March 5, 2018, Orangeburg Department of Public Safety (ODPS) deputies conducting a property check approached a vehicle in which Keitt was a passenger.  After Keitt was observed moving and reaching around the back seat of the vehicle, Keitt initially ignored several verbal commands from deputies.  Keitt was ordered out of the vehicle and deputies found a Taurus 9mm pistol on the rear seat near Keitt and within his reach.  After Keitt admitted to possession of the firearm, deputies found two magazines and 19 rounds of ammunition, including one loaded magazine matching the pistol strapped to the inside of Keitt’s right leg. Federal law prohibits Keitt from possessing a firearm or ammunition based upon prior state convictions, including two convictions for Assault and Battery of a High and Aggravated Nature in a case that involved a shooting; Threatening the Life of a Public Employee; Criminal Domestic Violence; two convictions for Assault; Burglary; two convictions for Pointing and Presenting a Firearm; and various breaking and entering, possession of stolen property, and property crime convictions, among others. Keitt faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison, a fine of $250,000, and 3 years of court-ordered supervision.  However, if the court determines enhanced penalties apply based on ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-03-05
    2 months ago
  • California Woman Sentenced to 2 Years in Federal Prison After Making Bomb Threat to Myrtle Beach International Airport
    Florence, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Michelle Bryant, age 47, of Mission Viejo, California, was sentenced in federal court after pleading guilty to three counts of Intentionally Conveying False and Misleading Information.  The information concerned several false claims of explosive devices placed at the Myrtle Beach International Airport (MBIA).  Chief United States District Judge R. Bryan Harwell of Florence sentenced Bryant to 24 months in federal prison, to be followed by 3 years of court-ordered supervision.  There is no parole in the federal system.  Bryant was also ordered to pay the Horry County Airport Authority $12,822.40 in restitution to reimburse the MBIA for their purchase of a full-time bomb detection dog and a trained handler.  Law enforcement acquired these assets to deal with this case and to protect future visitors to MBIA.    Evidence presented to the court established that from March through August 2017, Bryant placed five telephonic bomb threats to the MBIA.  Investigators obtained records from an international telecommunications company and interviewed a multitude of individuals to narrow the field of potential suspects.  In February 2018, the FBI identified Bryant as a potential suspect and interviewed her at her residence in California.  Once confronted, she admitted to placing the series of telephone calls, each one falsely claiming a different attack was about to occur. She told investigators the motive for the hoaxes was revenge for a failed relationship with an individual who had ties to the airport.       The case was investigated by ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-03-03
    2 months ago
  • Greenville Business Owners Convicted by Federal Jury of Mail and Wire Fraud Conspiracy
    Greenville, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Jonathan E. Field, age 41, and Shena J. Field, age 40, both of Mauldin, South Carolina, were found guilty of a conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.  A federal jury returned guilty verdicts late Friday evening after two hours of deliberation.  United States District Judge Donald C. Coggins of Spartanburg received the verdict and will sentence the Fields after receiving and reviewing a Presentence Investigation Report prepared by the United States Probation Office.    Evidence presented at trial showed that the Fields owned and operated the business Reboot LLC, which purports to be a used electronics store.  Reboot, however, was an organized fencing operation where shoplifters, many of whom suffered from drug addiction, unloaded their new-in-the-box stolen items for a fraction of the items’ retail value.  The Fields posted the stolen items for sale on EBay and sold the items to honest purchasers who were uninformed as to the status of the items.  The evidence showed that the Fields welcomed the shoplifters’ business by not requiring production of sales receipts and implementing a no-questions-asked policy at Reboot.  Store records entered into evidence showed that some shoplifters went to Reboot almost every day, and sometimes multiple times per day, to bring stolen goods.  The Fields and store employees would also meet the shoplifters after hours at gas stations and other spots to receive the stolen goods.  If Reboot oversold an item on EBay, the Fields would instruct selected ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-03-03
    2 months ago
  • Liberty Felon Sentenced to 15 Years in Federal Prison for Firearms and Methamphetamine Trafficking Crimes
    Columbia, South Carolina---- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Jevon Chrzanowski, age 44, of Liberty, South Carolina, was sentenced in federal court after pleading guilty to Possession with Intent to Distribute 50 Grams or More of Methamphetamine and Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime.  United States District Judge Timothy M. Cain, of Anderson, sentenced Chrzanowski to 180 months in federal prison, to be followed by 5 years of court-ordered supervision.  There is no parole in the federal system. Evidence presented to the court established that the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) executed a search warrant at Chrzanowski’s residence and located: a 16 gauge shotgun; a .380 caliber pistol; a 12 gauge shotgun; over 50 grams of methamphetamine; $2,400; and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. The case was investigated by Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, SLED, DEA, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.  It was prosecuted as part of the joint federal, state, and local Project CeaseFire initiative, which aggressively prosecutes firearm cases.  Project CeaseFire is South Carolina’s implementation of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts.  PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime.  Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-02-27
    2 months ago
  • Eleven Charged in Federal Court in Heroin, Cocaine, and Fentanyl Trafficking Indictment
    Greenville, South Carolina – United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that eleven individuals have been charged in a multi-count federal indictment for their roles in a wide-ranging conspiracy to import and possess with intent to distribute heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl and other related offenses.  On February 19, 2019, a federal grand jury returned a twenty-two count sealed indictment alleging the defendants conspired to import the narcotics from Mexico and distribute them throughout the upstate of South Carolina, North Carolina, and elsewhere.  One count of the indictment charges that in October 2018, four of the defendants conspired to smuggle over 1 million dollars in cash from South Carolina to a place outside the United States in exchange for the narcotics.  According to the indictment, the defendants are also charged with maintaining a stash house located in Mountville, South Carolina, where they manufactured and stored controlled substances.  “Today’s indictment is yet another example of the unwavering commitment of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina to disrupting and dismantling the flow of illegal opioids and other narcotics into our state,” said U.S. Attorney Lydon.  “As the opioid epidemic tightens its grip on families across America, we will continue to join with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to aggressively prosecute individuals who are peddling these dangerous and deadly drugs into our communities.” While one defendant remains at large, the individuals arrested today are: Detric Lee McGowan, aka “Fat”, 46, of Piedmont, South Carolina Donald Nathaniel ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-02-26
    2 months ago
  • SCDC Prisoner and Co-Conspirator Sentenced to Federal Prison for Roles in Dark Web Mail Bomb Plot
    Columbia, South Carolina --- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Michael James Young Jr., 32, of Columbia, South Carolina, was sentenced to over 43 years in federal prison for his role in a conspiracy to purchase a mail bomb from prison over the Dark Web.  Co-conspirator Tyrell Fears, 23, of Irmo, South Carolina, was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison. Evidence presented to the court revealed that while incarcerated in the South Carolina Department of Corrections, Young obtained a contraband cellphone smuggled into the Broad River Correctional Institution.  Young used that contraband cellphone to run a drug business distributing marijuana he obtained from a California supplier and from the Dark Web.  Drugs purchased by Young were shipped to a conspirator’s residence before being picked up by co-defendant Vance Volious for re-distribution. While this drug conspiracy among Young, Volious, and others was operating, the conspirators also plotted to kill Young’s ex-wife.  This was not the first time that Young had tried to kill her; he was serving a 50-year sentence after having been convicted of attempting to kill her and of murdering her father in 2007. In February 2017, Young accessed the Dark Web from prison on his contraband cellphone and started a dialogue with an undercover FBI agent, whom he believed to be a foreign explosives dealer.  Young paid for a mail bomb to be sent to a conspirator’s residence in Irmo and for the re-shipment label addressed to his ex-wife to be sent to Volious’ ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-02-26
    2 months ago
  • Notice of Court Proceedings
    COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA -- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon stated today that a Pre-Trial Conference has been scheduled in the case of United States v. Daniel Edward Johnson, Case No. 3:18-863.  A plea agreement has been filed.  Senior United States District Court Judge Cameron McGowan Currie will preside. WHEN:      Tuesday, February 26, 2019, at 2 p.m. WHERE:    Matthew J. Perry Courthouse                      901 Richland Street, Courtroom # 1, Columbia, SC         # # # # ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-02-25
    2 months ago
  • 13 Cuban Nationals Sentenced to Federal Prison for Conspiracy to Commit Wire and Mail Fraud
    Columbia, South Carolina---- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that 13 Cuban Nationals have been sentenced in federal court for Conspiracy to Commit Wire and Mail Fraud. United States District Judge Mary Geiger Lewis, of Columbia, sentenced the following defendants: Jose Livan Rodriguez Espinosa, age 27, of Miami, Florida, to 108 months in federal prison; Ricardo Daniel Ortega Guerra, age 29, of Miami, Florida, to 41 months in federal prison; Julio Santos Vargas, age 26, of Miami, Florida, to 33 months in federal prison; Humberto Merina Chamizo, age 29, of Roswell, New Mexico, to 33 months in federal prison; Julio Villavicencio Alvarez, age 43, of Miami, Florida, to 27 months in federal prison; Angel Dairan Martinez Delgado, age 31, of Miami, Florida, to 33 months in federal prison; Robert Farres Rodriguez, age 30, of Miami, Florida, to 70 months in federal prison; Reyes Garcia Perez, age 53, of Miami, Florida, to 38 months in federal prison; Leduan Reyes, age 28, of Miami, Florida, to 33 months in federal prison; Andres Conzales Acosta, age 40, of Jacksonville, Florida, to 33 months in federal prison;  Humberto Medina Chamizo, age 29, of Roswell, New Mexico, to 33 months in federal prison; Reinaldo Fabelo, age 29, of Houston, Texas, to 33 months in federal prison; and Jose Ramon Morales, age 28, of Ft. Myers, Florida, 12 months in federal prison. Each defendant was also sentenced to between one and three years of court-ordered supervision to follow his prison term. Together, the defendants ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-02-25
    2 months ago
  • Effingham Felon Sentenced to Two Years in Federal Prison for Drug and Gun Charges
    Florence, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Dustin Earl Odom, age 24, of Effingham, South Carolina, was sentenced to 24 months in federal prison after pleading guilty in October 2018 to possession with intent to distribute marijuana and being a felon in possession of a firearm.    Evidence presented in court established that on July 19, 2017, Odom committed a traffic infraction and was stopped as part of a routine traffic stop in Darlington County, South Carolina.  Upon approaching the vehicle, the officer smelled marijuana and asked Odom, the only occupant of the vehicle, to step outside.  The officer found approximately 110 grams of marijuana and a loaded Spring Armory XDM .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol in the vehicle. Officers later found two additional firearms in his residence—a Ruger LCP .380 caliber semi-automatic pistol and a Taurus Judge .45 caliber revolver. Federal law prohibits Odom from possessing a firearm, and this is not the first time he has been convicted of unlawfully possessing a gun.  Odom was convicted in 2013 at the age of 18 for the unlawful carrying of a pistol in state court.  Odom also has previous state court felony convictions for burglary in the second degree and criminal conspiracy. United States District Judge R. Bryan Harwell, of Florence, accepted Odom’s guilty plea and sentenced him to 24 months in federal prison followed by three years of court-ordered supervision.  There is no parole in the federal system.  Assistant United States Attorneys Christopher Taylor ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-02-25
    2 months ago
  • Former Fifth Circuit Solicitor Pleads Guilty in Federal Court to Fraud
    Columbia, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Daniel Edward Johnson, age 48, former Fifth Circuit Solicitor and resident of Blythewood, South Carolina, pled guilty in federal court to Wire Fraud.  Senior United States District Court Judge Cameron McGowan Currie accepted the guilty plea and scheduled Johnson’s sentencing for June 4, 2019. Facts presented in court established that Daniel Edward Johnson was the Fifth Circuit Solicitor from 2011 to 2018.  The Solicitor’s Office serves both Richland and Kershaw Counties and receives funding from both, as well as from the federal government.  Kershaw County pays the office-related credit card bills for select Solicitor’s Office employees.  During his time as Solicitor, Johnson used Solicitor’s Office funds to cover personal and non-office-related expenses.  Johnson was issued Solicitor’s Office credit cards reading “DAN JOHNSON, Fifth Circuit Sol Office.”  Using these cards, Johnson made a series of personal and non-office-related purchases, starting no later than 2016.  In pleading guilty to the scheme, Johnson acknowledged that a November 2016 payment by Kershaw County covered personal expenses on the October 2016 credit card statement.  That statement contained the following fraudulent transactions: September 7, 2016, charge for $208.79, at the Elara by Hilton Grand Vacations in Las Vegas. September 7, 2016, charge for $911.48, at the Doubletree Magic Mile hotel in Chicago. October 1, 2016, charge for $685.07, to Copa Airlines, an airline based in Panama. October 5, 2016, charge for $137.22, at the Hilton Columbia Center in Columbia, SC. The total loss ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-02-25
    2 months ago
  • Man Selling Fentanyl-Laced Drugs Pleads Guilty in Federal Court
    Columbia, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Jeffery Jermaine Joe, age 42, of Camden, South Carolina, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute heroin, cocaine, and crack cocaine. Senior United States District Judge Joseph F. Anderson accepted Joe’s guilty plea and will sentence him after receiving and reviewing a presentencing report prepared by the United States Probation Office. According to facts summarized by the Government at Joe’s guilty plea hearing, Joe was caught in a traffic stop with the illicit drugs and was subsequently captured on video selling pills laced with fentanyl. Joe was also charged for possession of a firearm that was discovered in the same room where he sold the fentanyl-laced pills. Federal law prohibits Joe from possessing a firearm based on prior convictions for distribution of crack cocaine; possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine 2nd; trafficking crack cocaine 2nd; distribution crack cocaine; and possession with intent to distribute marijuana. This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office. It is being prosecuted as part of the joint federal, state, and local Project CeaseFire initiative, which aggressively prosecutes firearm cases. Project CeaseFire is South Carolina’s implementation of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts.  PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing ... read more
    Source: DOJ – SCPublished on 2019-02-25
    2 months ago