Federal prosecutors say Lexington County Sheriff James Metts has been indicted on ten counts by a federal grand jury.
According to an indictment released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office on Tuesday, Metts received bribes from friends to interfere with the identification and processing of illegal aliens who were being held at the Lexington County Detention Center. Some of the charges against the Republican include violating federal law, using an interstate facility for bribery, and conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens.
Gov. Nikki Haley suspended Metts from office shortly after the indictments were unsealed Tuesday. State law allows the governor to replace a public official indicted for crimes of “moral turpitude.” The governor appointed former Assistant Sheriff Lewis McCarty as Metts’ temporary replacement. McCarty served as second-in-command at the department until his 1999 retirement.
Metts had been sheriff since 1972. If found guilty on all charges, he could face up to 40 years in prison and over $1 million in fines.
Meanwhile, the State Grand Jury also returned indictments against former Lexington Town Councilman Danny Frazier, ex-South Congaree police chief Jason Amodio, and Midlands businessman Gregorio Leon. The indictment alleges Frazier and Leon were the ones who bribed Metts. Amodio is charged with misconduct in office, accused of accepting a bribe to return seized gambling machines.
The indictments state that Metts helped Leon, who owns the San Jose Mexican restaurant chain in the Columbia area, on at least four occasions. The indictments allege that Leon would contact Frazier, who worked as a “business liaison” with the Sheriff’s Department, to ask for help with employees who had been detained on immigration violations. Frazier would then arrange for Metts to receive cash in exchange for his help, according to the indictments.
Other federal charges against Metts include conspiracy to harbor people who were in the country illegally, conspiracy to violate federal law and interfering with government functions, use of an interstate facility to facilitate bribery, and use of interstate wire to defraud citizens of honest services.
Frazier resigned his town council seat in January. The indictments come roughly two years after audio recordings surfaced of Frazier talking about illegal video poker businesses and how he hid them from law enforcement. The State Law Enforcement Division began investigating Frazier’s businesses after the recording surfaced in 2012. It’s not clear at this point if that investigation led to the indictments against Metts.
Those video poker machines surfaced in the charges against former South Congaree Police Chief Jason Amodio. The indictment accuses Amodio of taking an undisclosed amount of money from Frazier in exchange for illegal gambling machines his department had seized. Amodio was placed on leave by the town council shortly after the FBI and SLED raided the town offices in May 2013. Amodio later resigned. No reason was given at the time for the raid or Amodio’s suspension.