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Florida Developer Pleads Guilty to Federal Kickback Charges

Developer Pleaded Guilty to Bribing Former SCSU Board Chair, Part of Federal Kickback Charges

The developer in Florida who agreed to pay former SCSU board trustee Jonathan Pinson with a Porsche SUV has pleaded guilty to the federal kickback charges levied against him.

Richard Zahn was in Charleston, SC on Friday, February 8th, and admitted to the federal kickback charges he received, which included conspiracy and defrauding the federal government.

As a result of his guilty plea, Zahn must completely cooperate with the FBI and the US Attorney’s Office as they investigate Pinson.

According to officials, Zahn owned a piece of land in Orangeburg, SC that Pinson agreed to purchase with SCSU money. Pinson used his position with the board of the trustees to purchase the land, called the “Sportsman’s Retreat,” for around $3 million. In return Zahn would give Pinson an expensive car, and $110,000.

Reports show that Zahn had nearly closed the deal with Pinson for the land, when the FBI shut the operation down.

Zahn is currently free on $100,000 bond, but faces up to 5 years in prison if the court decides he is guilty.

The Story Behind the Federal Kickback Charges

Pinson was charged in January 2013 with federal kickback charges, along with friend and alleged co-conspirator Eric Robinson. Both men have pleaded not guilty to the federal kickback charges. Pinson even recently filed with the court to have the identities of his informants revealed.

According to prosecutors, between 2009 and 2011, Pinson, along with “close personal friend” Eric Robinson, accepted items of value in exchange for using his official position to help those who bribed him. This is a violation of the Hobbs Act, which prohibits actual or attempted robbery or extortion affecting interstate or foreign commerce. The statute is frequently cited in cases involving public corruption, such as this case.

In mid-January, former Chief of Police Michael Bartley admitted to his role in the plot. He allegedly agreed to promote the purchase of the Sportsman’s Retreat, and in return would receive $30,000 and an All-Terrain Vehicle.

Bartley was one of eight SCSU staff members fired this time last year because of his connection to the scheme, which the university said it was investigating, but did not go into detail.

Federal Criminal Charges and Kickback Defense in South Carolina

Kickbacks refer to a form of negotiated bribery in which one returns part of the purchase price of an item to a buyer or buyer’s representative with the intent of inducing a purchase or improperly influencing purchases in the future.

Under federal law kickbacks involving government officials or public funds provided by the government are illegal.

Not all kickbacks are considered illegal. If a kickback does not specifically violate the federal or state law, the kickback may be considered normal, legal and tax deductible. Tax deductibility is prohibited by an official, employee of the federal government or an official or employee of a foreign government.

If you or your company has been accused of kickbacks, a South Carolina federal criminal defense attorney at the Strom Law Firm, LLC can help. With long standing experience with both state and federal cases, we know what it takes to aggressively defend you. Call a South Carolina Criminal Defense Attorney at the Strom Law Firm today for a free consultation. 803.252.4800.



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