Williamsburg County Sheriff Michael L. Johnson was suspended from office Wednesday — hours after federal prosecutors revealed a grand jury had indicted him on a conspiracy charge.
Governor Nikki Haley suspended Johnson after he was indicted with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Prosecutors say Johnson filed false identity theft reports on behalf of a business trying to improve its customers’ credit scores.
The governor has the power to suspend any public official indicted on a crime “involving moral turpitude.” Her spokesman told South Carolina Radio Network that an interim replacement will be named soon.
According to the indictment released Wednesday, Johnson conspired with Columbia-based FIG Investments, LLC owner Lester Woods to help 130 customers falsely improve their credit ratings. The indictment claims that Sheriff Johnson took filed false incident reports with the Equifax credit bureau to help customers with overdue bills claim they were the victims of identity theft.
Woods was also indicted on the same charge Wednesday.
According to the indictment, “Equifax suppressed over $11 million in trade liens and public debt from over 130 consumer credit reports” based on the false information.
The indictment does not say how or if Johnson profited from the alleged scheme.
Johnson has served as Williamsburg County sheriff since 2010. He told WPDE-TV that he does not plan to resign. His attorney released a statement to media outlets soon after the indictment’s release.
“Sheriff Michael Johnson is a dedicated public servant for 16 years in Williamsburg County. He’s protected and served the citizens. He respects the justice system and looks forward to his day in court. Michael appreciates all the support of his colleagues, friends and family during this difficult time,” attorney Debbie Barbier wrote.