Two High-Ranking Government Employees Indicted for Federal Crimes, Including Kickbacks
Former South Carolina State Board of Trustees chairman Jonathan Pinson and former Chief of Police Michael Bartley have been indicted on federal charges for receiving kickbacks.
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.
Bartley agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in Pinson’s case. According to documents, Bartley admitted to accepting $30,000 and an All Terrain Vehicle in return for his promotion of a land purchase Pinson initiated. Reportedly, Bartley was a friend of the Florida businessman that Pinson extorted in exchange for using his official position on the board.
Bartley was one of eight SC State employees fired in February 2012 during an internal investigation, which the university would not discuss in more detail. He is free on a $10,000 bond, and will be sentenced at a currently undetermined date. He faces up to 5 years in prison and $250,000 in fines, if convicted.
The Kickbacks to Pinson
The 8-page federal indictment against Pinson and Bartley was unsealed this morning.
In 2011, Pinson and Robinson worked together to illegally secure a contract with WE Entertainment, a concert promotions business that Robinson was involved with. WE Entertainment was hired to manage SC State’s 2011 Homecoming Concert. In return, Robinson and his promotions business agreed to provide Pinson with a kickback, although the indictment did not say what the kickback was. $10,000 in federal funds, and SC State fees charged to students, paid for WE Entertainment’s involvement.
Pinson was also involved in extortion of the Florida businessman who was friends with Bartley. Pinson used his influence on the school’s board to convince the university to purchase a piece of land in Orangeburg County called the “Sportsman’s Retreat.” In exchange, Pinson was to receive a Porsche Cayenne, valued at $100,000.
Pinson and Robinson worked together on the conspiracy, using cell phones and making trips to Florida and Georgia to secure the deal. According to the indictment, Pinson made at least one trip to Florida on a private jet.
The FBI noted that wire taps between July and November 2011 helped catch Pinson in the act. He was released from jail on Thursday, January 10th, on a $25,000 bond, after pleading not guilty in Columbia. Robinson was also released, on a $15,000 bond.
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.