A suspended Pee Dee sheriff is facing jail time after he was found guilty on a conspiracy charge last week.
The State newspaper reported Friday that a federal jury found Williamsburg County Sheriff Michael Johnson guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Prosecutors said Johnson helped a Columbia businessman named Lester Woods.
Woods ran the FIG Investments, LLC credit repair firm. The U.S. Attorney’s Office accused Sheriff Johnson of writing 130 false police reports so that Woods could tell the credit bureau Equifax that his clients had had their identities stolen, when they really just had bad credit scores. Equifax had a policy of restoring good credit if a person could show they had been the victim of identity theft. Equifax suppressed over $11 million in trade liens and public debt as a result of the scheme, according to an indictment.
Woods was also found guilty on Friday.
Two dozen of Woods’ former clients testified during the trial that they’d had no knowledge of what the businessman was doing. Some said they had never even been to Williamsburg County, yet had incident reports filed in their names.
Johnson’s attorney insisted the evidence was not enough to convict her client. Debbie Barbier argued that prosecutors could show no evidence Johnson had ever been paid by Woods for his part in the scheme.
Johnny Bartell has been serving as interim Williamsburg County sheriff since Johnson was suspended immediately after his indictment in February.
The sentence for wire fraud conspiracy is up to 20 years in prison, though Johnson is not expected to receive the maximum.