Former Chairman of Board of Trustees for South Carolina State Sentenced to Five Years for Racketeering Conspiracy
COLUMBIA, SC—The United States Attorney’s Office announced that Jonathan Pinson, age 45, of Greenville, South Carolina was sentenced today in federal court in Columbia, South Carolina, for Conspiracy to Commit Racketeering (Count 1), Theft Concerning Programs Receiving Federal Funds (Counts 2,3) Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud (Counts 12, 18), Mail Fraud (Counts 25, 26), Wire Fraud (Counts 27-34), Money Laundering (Counts 35-41) and False Statements (Counts 43-46 and 48-50). United States District Judge David C. Norton of Columbia sentenced Mr. Pinson to 60 months concurrent on each count of conviction, to be followed by five years’ supervised release. Judge Norton imposed restitution in the amount of $337,843.05.
In June 2014, a jury convicted Mr. Pinson for his involvement in four different schemes. One scheme revolved around the 2011 homecoming concert at SCSU and Mr. Pinson’s efforts to steer the concert promotion contract to his close friend and former SCSU roommate in exchange for a kickback.
Other schemes included Mr. Pinson’s theft of government funds earmarked for the installation of a diaper plant in Marion County. Evidence showed that proceeds from the grant, intended to create jobs in rural Marion County, were instead pocketed by Mr. Pinson and his associates, Lance Wright, Tony Williams, and Phil Mims, each of whom has pled guilty to charges related to the fraud.
Mr. Pinson was also convicted of theft of government funds received from a 10 million dollar American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grant (commonly known as stimulus money) intended for the development known as the Village at Rivers Edge (VRE).
In the final scheme Mr. Pinson again used his position as Chairman of the Board of SCSU to influence officials at SCSU to purchase land known as “Sportsman’s Retreat”. The seller of the property, Richard Zahn, Pinson’s business partner, testified that he agreed to pay a kickback to Mr. Pinson in the form of a new Porsche Cayenne, an SUV valued at approximately $90,000.
During the two and one-half week trial, the Government called twenty witnesses, introduced approximately 200 exhibits and played 118 secretly recorded telephone calls. The calls, authorized by a court ordered wiretap, covered from July 21 to November 20, 2011.
“The FBI, and its local, state, and federal law enforcement partners, remain vigilant in the fight against Public Corruption and are committed to bringing to justice those who abuse public trust,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge David A. Thomas. In thanking his law enforcement partners, SAC Thomas added, “The investigation that gave rise to this indictment and the conviction of Mr. Pinson and others is an example of the excellent work being done by the South Carolina Public Corruption Task Force which includes the FBI, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and IRS.”
Special Agent in Charge Thomas Holloman said, “The Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations, is committed to using our agent’s expertise in ‘following the money’ to bring accountability to public officials who steal taxpayer dollars to fund their prodigal lifestyles.”
The case was investigated by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General (HUD-OIG) and Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI). Assistant United States Attorney Nancy Wicker, Jane Taylor, Dewayne Pearson, and J.D. Rowell of the Columbia office prosecuted the case.