- Associated Press - Friday, September 19, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - A federal jury on Friday convicted Williamsburg County Sheriff Michael Johnson of fraud for creating false police reports of identity theft.

The State of Columbia reports (https://bit.ly/1uPwRpZ) the jury deliberated for three hours before returning its verdict. The jury also found businessman Lester Woods guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with the scam.

Both men will be sentenced at a later date.

Prosecutors said Johnson, who was suspended as sheriff, created false police reports that said people had their identities stolen for a friend who ran a credit repair business. Those reports allowed the people to claim their overdue bills were caused by identity fraud and have the debts wiped off their records.

More than 130 false reports were created under Johnson’s login on the agency’s computers, authorities said.

But Johnson’s lawyer said the Williamsburg County Sheriff’s Office had less than a dozen computers that had to be shared by deputies, so another officer could have used a computer under Johnson’s login. Defense attorneys also repeatedly got witnesses to testify that Johnson did not appear to be living beyond his means or appeared to get anything in return for creating the reports.

Williams was suspended from office after his indictment in February. Seven other sheriffs from South Carolina’s 46 counties have faced charges or investigations into legal troubles since 2010. Lexington County Sheriff James Metts is awaiting a federal trial on charges he took bribes to keep people in the country illegally who were hired by a friend out of jail.


Information from: The State, https://www.thestate.com

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