A former Greenville County legislator who was an FBI informant for the largest corruption investigation in South Carolina’s history has died.
Ron Cobb was a key informant in the FBI’s sting that eventually brought criminal convictions against 27 legislators, lobbyists and other state officials in a massive vote-buying case known as “Operation Lost Trust.” However, he was able to rehabilitate his reputation and operated a successful business in the Greenville area until a few years ago. He was 69 years old when he passed away Sunday, according to the Beasley Funeral Home.
The funeral home said Cobb had been battling an “extended illness” and was living in hospice care at the time of his death.
Cobb was a former Greenville County legislator-turned lobbyist who agreed to cooperate with the FBI in 1989 after he was arrested attempting to buy a kilo of cocaine from an undercover officer. For the next year, he arranged for more than a dozen legislators to receive bribes if they agreed to support a phony bill that would have legalized dog- and horse-race gambling.
In the end, Cobb helped bring convictions against 27 legislators, lobbyists and even judges. One legislator was found not guilty. The sheer size of the sting and the outrage that followed led to a 1992 ethics law that banned unlimited campaign contributions and also set limits on what lobbyists could provide lawmakers.
Outside of politics, Cobb was a developer in the Greenville area and led the textile company E.C. Industries. He is survived by a son and daughter, as well as two brothers and various grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday in the Carpenter Chapel of Greenville First Baptist Church. The family will receive friends prior to the service at 1p.m. in the Prayer Room.