Sheriff indicted on federal charges

  • Tuesday, February 25, 2014

  • Updated Tuesday, February 25, 2014 9:02 am

Michael L. Johnson

Williamsburg County Sheriff Michael L. Johnson, 38, of Salters, and Lester L. Woods, 48, of Columbia, were charged in a one-count indictment. Both were charged with Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud, a violation of Title 18, U. S. C. 1349.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley issued an executive order Wednesday, February 19, suspending Johnson from office pending the outcome of his case. According to reports, former Williamsburg County Sheriff Jack McCrea will serve as interim sheriff.

According to the indictment Johnson and Woods engaged in a scheme to falsely improve the credit histories and credit scores of over 130 consumers. The consumers were typically charged several hundred to a few thousand dollars to have their credit improved.

The indictment states Johnson used consumer information provided by Woods, who operated a credit repair organization and did business as FIG Investments, LLC, and Fig Consulting, LLC, to prepare false Williamsburg County Incident Reports indicating the consumers had been victims of identity fraud or identity theft. Woods would then send the report to Equifax by fax and/or email. The incidents occurred sometime in March 2012, through approximately August 2013 according to the indictment. Johnson has served 16 years in law enforcement. In 2010 he was elected sheriff after former Williamsburg County Sheriff Kelvin Washington was appointed a United States Marshal for the District of South Carolina.

Johnson's attorney said he is looking forward to his day in court. "He respects the judicial process and wants it to take its course," said Deborah Barbier.

Barbier added Johnson appreciates all of the support from his colleagues, friends and supporters and he looks forward to defending himself against the charges and that justice will be served. Barbier is a former federal prosecutor.

The maximum penalty each could receive is 20 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $250,000. The case was investigated by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is assigned to Assistant United States Attorney Winston D. Holliday, Jr. of the Columbia office for prosecution. The United States Attorney stated that all charges in these indictments are merely accusations and that all defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

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