- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 28, 2017

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Twenty-two people connected with a so-called Irish traveler community in western South Carolina have pleaded guilty in federal court to being part of an organized crime ring.

The pleas were entered in federal court in Columbia on Tuesday. U.S. Attorney Beth Drake said in a statement that the group will be sentenced after a judge reviews presentence reports.

Earlier this month, local news outlets reported plea agreements showed each defendant would plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit racketeering in exchange for dropping other federal charges.

An August indictment says the defendants are residents of the Murphy Village community near North Augusta and are itinerant laborers and salesmen who go door-to-door.

The indictment accused them of committing fraud to obtain benefits such as life insurance and food stamps.

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