South Carolina Archives:

COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA (BNO NEWS) – Seven people, including the ringleader of a Swansea, South Carolina, cockfighting operation, pleaded guilty, prosecutors said Friday.

Gene Audry Jeffcoat, age 82, of Swansea, admitted making the rules for the cockfighting events and controlling various aspects of the operation, which took place on his property in Swansea in 2008 and 2009.

Johnny Junior Harrison, age 35, of Aiken, Coy Dale Robinson, age 31, of Blackstock, Jimmie Jesse Hicks, age 23, of Swansea, Roy Wilson Braddock, age 51, and Mary Durden Braddock, age 55, both of Hollywood, and Wade Timmons McGee, age 34, of Scranton, pleaded guilty to animal fighting charges, admitting they participated in cockfighting.

Each individual is facing a maximum penalty each of five years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000.00.

The seven of the 23 people indicted last November on animal fighting charges will be sentenced later in the year.

The cases are the result of a 13-month undercover investigation by state and federal authorities, during which undercover officers attended a total of eight cockfighting derbies held near Swansea in Lexington County and near Oceida in Williamsburg County.

The remaining eleven defendants are awaiting trial, which is scheduled for April 29th.

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COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA (BNO NEWS) – Two men of Central American nations were arrested and charged for criminal immigration offense, prosecutors announced on Thursday.

Everardo Reynoso-Diaz, 31, of Guatemala, and Jose Luis Nectali Melendez, 33, of Honduras, were arrested last March at the Jade Garden restaurant in Beaufort County, South Carolina, after federal agents and local deputies executed search warrants.

Reynoso-Diaz and Melendez were later indicted by a federal grand jury with unlawful reentry to the United States by an illegal alien after deportation.

If convicted, both co-defendants face a maximum penalty of two years of imprisonment and a fine of $250,000. Both men also face deportation after completing their respective sentence imposed.

(Copyright 2010 by BNO News B.V. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without explicit prior permission from BNO News B.V. Contact sales@bnonews.com for more information about subscriptions.)

COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA (BNO NEWS) – A Simpsonville, South Carolina home health nurse was sentenced to 28 months of imprisonment for conspiracy to fraudulently acquire controlled substances, and conspiracy to create and pass counterfeit checks, prosecutors said on Monday.

Tasha McMahand, 33, stole account numbers and identification information from patients she was treating. She also stole prescription pads and physician DEA numbers from medical offices where she worked.

With this information, McMahand created false prescriptions for hydrocodone and other painkillers to addicts for cash. Then, McMahand sold the fraudulently acquired pain killers to addicts for cash.

McMahand and two co-conspirators also stole mail to obtain checks and account numbers to be used in the manufacturing of counterfeit checks. She created the bogus checks on her computer and then recruited two Greenville residents, Ronald Jones, 41, and Orlando Thompson, 39, to pass the checks in upstate of South Carolina.

In exchange for their services, McMahand let the two men to keep a portion of the proceeds. On October 2008, law enforcement agents executed a search warrant at a guest room. The police officers seized stolen mail, stolen credit cards, stolen template checks, counterfeit checks, a pistol and printing equipment. The room was rented by McMahand and 51 counterfeit checks were recovered.

Co-conspirators Jones and Thompson were previously sentenced to 12 and 6 months respectively.

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COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA (BNO NEWS) – A Greenville, South Carolina man was sentenced to 33 months in prison and five years of supervised release for bank fraud, prosecutors said on Monday.

James Patrick Mondell, 48, recruited at least four people to open checking accounts at local banks, and then write checks on those accounts with insufficient funds from June 2008 through October 2009.

Mondell deposited such checks into other accounts. They also inserted empty deposit envelopes into ATM machines and keyed-in a false amount for deposit. The deposits of insufficient funds checks and false ATM deposits inflated account balances, which allowed them to withdraw the credited funds before the banks discovered the fraud.

The banks lost over $20,000 before the kite was discovered. The banks defrauded were Banking & Trust Company, the Bank of Travelers Rest, and Regions Bank. Due to the fact that Mondell was the leader and mastermind behind the scheme, he received an increased sentence.

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COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA (BNO NEWS) – Two Georgia brothers were convicted on Tuesday for conspiracy to distribute kilograms of cocaine and crack in Richland County, South Carolina, prosecutors said.

Martin Mendez, 25, of Smyrna and Elver Diaz-Vega, 32, of Atlanta are the sons of Juan Mendoza, the leader of a drug trafficking operation of Richland County. Mendoza was sentenced last year to 30 years in federal prison for his offenses.

The brothers bought and sold more than 100 kilograms of cocaine for the organization, which it is said to have started in 2002. Mendez also authorized drug transactions made by the organization. Diaz-Vega had his own cocaine distribution network.

In 2008, Diaz-Vega was arrested after he attempted to purchase two kilograms of cocaine from an undercover agent in Georgia. Police officers seized a firearm and over $40,000 in cash. Mendez, on the other hand, used a cell phone to approve drug deals while he was serving time for an earlier drug conviction.

Mendez faces a mandatory minimum penalty of 20 years. Diaz-Vega was sentenced to a mandatory term of 25 years. Both co-defendants could be sentenced to life imprisonment.

So far, 30 people have been convicted in the case. Substantial quantities of cocaine and marijuana, $60,000 in cash and more than 20 firearms were seized.

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COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA (BNO NEWS) – A Bronx, New York man was convicted on Monday for conspiracy to distribute kilograms of cocaine and launder drug proceeds, prosecutors said.

Carlos Tejada, 30, purchased and distributed more than 50 kilograms of cocaine from a drug distribution cell located in Goose Creek. Following a two-year investigation, it was revealed that the Goose Creek cell arranged for hundreds of kilograms of Mexican cocaine to be transported by cars with hidden compartments from Tucson, Arizona, and El Paso, Texas, to South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina, Florida and New York.

So far, eighteen individuals have been indicted and officers have seized more than $2 million and 15 kilograms of cocaine. Tejada is the twelfth person convicted.

Tejada faces a minimum mandatory penalty of 20 years and a possible maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

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COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA (BNO NEWS) – Four Chesterfield County, South Carolina men were sentenced on Wednesday for stealing pine straw from the Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge, prosecutors said.

Curtis Funderbunk, 51, was sentenced to one month in prison; Willie Harris, 49, was sentenced to five months’ imprisonment; Ray E. Miller, 51, was sentenced to 3 years’ probation; and Alonzo Blakeney Jr., 47, was sentenced to 18 months of probation. All four men were ordered to pay restitution.

United States Fish and Wildlife (USFW) agents realized that large amounts of pine straw were removed from a certain sector of the Sandhills Refuge. After setting up some surveillance, USFW agents arrested Miller, Funderbunk and Harris when the men arrived to steal more pine straw. Blakeney was later arrested for earlier thefts of pine straw with the others.

The USFW carefully regulates the gathering of pine straw on the Sandhills Refuge, so as to not destroy wildlife habitat. Pine straw is considered government property. Authorities estimate that the value of the stolen pine straw was $5,000.

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COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA (BNO NEWS) – South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford signed a government restructuring measure for the notoriously troubled Employment Security Commission (ESC) and creates the Department of Employment and Workforce, the Office of the Governor announced on Tuesday.

“The ESC’s ineptitude and disturbing lack of accountability have had real world consequences – from $171 million in inexplicable payments to people who were fired for good reason and a failure to even investigate fraud since 2008, to an estimated Unemployment Trust Fund shortfall of nearly two billion dollars,” Governor Sanford said.

“This legislation both increases accountability to the taxpayers and restores the core mission of connecting people looking for a job with employment opportunities.”

The newly created Department of Employment and Workforce will focus on connecting willing workers with open jobs across South Carolina. The new legislation will give the authority to the Governor to appoint and remove the Director of the new department and will also keep a close watch on the department’s actions to prevent failures like its predecessor had.

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NEW BERN, NORTH CAROLINA (BNO NEWS) – A South Carolina man was sentenced to 180 months (15 years) followed by 5 years of supervised release for his role in an armed bank robbery, prosecutor said on Monday.

Curtis Leon McCutchen, 27, and co-defendant David Jenkins, planned and executed an armed bank robbery on July 2, 2009. McCutchen and Jenkins, both wearing masks, entered the Suntrust Bank of Raleigh, North Carolina. McCutchen pointed a gun at employees and customers, while Jenkins took $7,400 from the counter.

Both men fled the bank in a car driven by co-defendant Bryan Jamar Singletary. While securing the area, an officer of the Raleigh Police Department saw the suspects’ car and attempted to stop them but failed.

The defendants engaged in a car chase with the police officers. During the pursuit, Jenkins shot several times at the policemen in an effort to slow them down. They also struck many vehicles while fleeing.

Jenkins and McCutchen were captured while trying to evade law enforcement agents on foot. Singletary was arrested two hours later near the abandoned vehicle. In the car, police officers seized a Glock .40 caliber handgun, currency and the clothing worn during the robbery. All the stolen money was recovered.

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COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA (BNO NEWS) – The former Mayor of Latta, South Carolina was convicted of 60 counts of defrauding the Social Security Administration and mail fraud, prosecutors announced on Monday.

Alan Lenneau Berry, 58, and his wife Sheila Berry, both residents of Latta, are accused of defrauding $243,000 from the Social Security Administration and the Hartford Insurance Company from January 2000 to November 2008.

Berry claimed to the Social Security Administration and the Hartford Insurance Company that he was disabled and couldn’t work, so he applied for disability benefits. Contrary to his claims, Berry was working for the town of Latta as its Mayor and as a recreation center director.

Furthermore, Berry also worked for Fast Tax Service in Latta during the period he was fraudulently receiving disability benefits. In order to hide his employment, Berry had his paychecks issued in Sheila Berry’s name.

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