A Florida developer has been charged as part of an alleged kickback scheme involving a former trustee at South Carolina State University.
According to documents filed in federal court this week, federal prosecutors have formally named Richard Zahn as a participant in an alleged scheme to sell property he owns in Orangeburg County to South Carolina State University in exchange for kickbacks to university officials. The news was first reported by the Charleston Post & Courier.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office has announced a hearing will be 11:00 a.m. Friday at the Hollings Judicial Center in Charleston, although the notice did not specifically mention Zahn by name.
According to the documents, Zahn is facing a charge of conspiracy to defraud the government. Zahn is the previously unnamed Florida businessman who prosecutors say conspired to sell 121 acres of land near the town of Cameron to SC State by offering bribes to the school’s former board of trustees chairman Jonathan Pinson and former police chief Michael Bartley. Prosecutors say the offered bribes were expensive cars and cash.
Investigators said they monitored Pinson’s phone calls in 2011 and learned of his deal with Zahn and Bartley. Prosecutors say Zahn offered Pinson a Porsche SUV in an October 2011 phone conversation. Bartley admitted agreeing to help promote the sale in exchange for about $30,000 and an all-terrain vehicle. Authorities moved to stop the deal before it ever happened.
Zahn’s attorney says his client his is cooperating with the government. Bartley has already pleaded guilty to conspiracy and will be sentenced at a later date. Pinson’s attorney said the charges are false and his client has “never ever taken a dime” to make any decision at South Carolina State.
Greenville businessman Eric Robinson is also charged in a separate deal with Pinson. Prosecutors say Pinson conspired with Robinson to get kickbacks in exchange for using Robinson’s entertainment company to promote a 2011 homecoming concert at S.C. State.