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September 22, 10

NEWS / Sentencings in Union County Corruption Probe


COLUMBIA, SC—United States Attorney Bill Nettles stated today that former Sheriff Wesley Howard Wells, former County Supervisor Donald R. Betenbaugh, former County Tax Assessor Willie E. Randall, Jr., and Union County Residents Willlie Dee Farr and Lapriest Darnell Beacham were sentenced today in federal court in Spartanburg, South Carolina, by United States District Judge Henry F. Floyd. The sentencings were the result of guilty pleas to charges stemming from four separate indictments issued by a federal grand jury in September 2009 after a long term investigation into public corruption in Union County.

(1) Former Union County Sheriff Wesley Howard Wells pled guilty on January 14, 2010 to lying to federal investigators. Evidence presented at the plea and sentencing hearings established that Wells made sizeable loans to an individual (who later agreed to cooperate) resulting in significant interest income to Wells which Wells did not report as income. In March 2009, Wells made false statements to federal law enforcement agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation concerning his involvement in concealing his receipt of taxable interest income and the existence of documents acknowledging the same. Wells attempted to persuade the cooperating individual to lie to agents, and those conversations were recorded on audiotape. Wells was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment with three years of supervised release, $2500.00 restitution, a $100.00 special assessment, plus a fine of $5000.00.

(2) Former Union County Supervisor Donald R. Betenbaugh pled guilty on February 9, 2010, to extorting a kickback. Betenbaugh admitted that he and then-Union County Tax Assessor Willie E. Randall, Jr., demanded a $50,000.00 kickback bribe from an individual who was attempting to sell a building to Union County. In exchange for the bribe, Betenbaugh agreed to use his official position as County Supervisor to see that the transaction took place. During the plea hearing, Betenbaugh admitted receiving some but not all of the bribe money. Betenbaugh was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment, three years of supervised release and a special assessment of $100.00. Judge Floyd also ordered Betenbaugh to make restitution to Union County and the restitution amount will be the subject of an additional order.

(3) Former Union County Tax Assessor Willie E. Randall, Jr., pled guilty on January 14, 2010, to conspiracy, extortion, soliciting and accepting bribes and kickbacks, money laundering, structuring financial transactions to evade federal reporting requirements, and knowingly allowing the Union County Tax Assessor’s Office to be used as a “stash house” for the storage and distribution of cocaine and hydrocodone. He also pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine and methamphetamine. As noted above, the evidence indicated that Randall and Betenbaugh solicited a $50,000.00 kickback and Randall laundered the kickback through the bank account of a side business that he ran; Randall also sold cocaine, methamphetamine and other drugs and he used drugs on and distributed drugs from county property. Randall was sentenced to a 57 months’ term of imprisonment plus four years of supervised release, a special assessment of $700.00. Judge Floyd also ordered Randall to make restitution to Union County and the restitution amount will be the subject of an additional order.

(4) Union County Resident Lapriest Darnell Beacham was also named as a co-defendant in a separate indictment along with Willie E. Randall, Jr. Beacham pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine. He was sentenced to a 12 months and one day term of imprisonment, plus three years of supervised release and a special assessment of $100.00.

(5) Union County Resident Willard Dee Farr pled guilty to conspiracy to commit extortion, as he served as the middle or “bagman” for the payment of a $4500 “kickback” to former Union Mayor Bruce Morgan and former Union Zoning Director Jeffrey Lawson. Farr was sentenced to a 12 month and one day term of imprisonment, a fine of $3000.00 and $1500.00 restitution plus three years of supervised release and a special assessment of $100.00.

Judge Floyd denied the defendants’ request that they be allowed to self-surrender and instead ordered that they be taken into custody. At the request of Betenbaugh’s attorney, he has been allowed until Monday to report to the U.S. Marshal due to extenuating circumstances.

Mr. Nettles stated that these cases were part of a lengthy undercover investigation targeting public corruption in Union, South Carolina. The investigation was conducted by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS-CI). The cases were prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Mark C. Moore, Nancy C. Wicker, and J.D. Rowell of the Columbia office.

http://columbia.fbi.gov/dojpressrel/pressrel10/co092110a.htm

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