A top aide to an indicted Midlands solicitor has pleaded guilty to fraud charges.
Nicole Holland pleaded guilty to mail and wire fraud on Thursday, a little more than a month after a grand jury indicted her for misusing the Fifth Circuit Solicitor’s Office credit card. In exchange for her plea, other conspiracy and theft charges were dropped.
Holland was the communications director for now-suspended Fifth Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson. Both are accused of using public funds to pay for personal expenses. Hollands admitted in her plea to spending $2,700 on various hotel stays and more than $1,000 on a family member’s orthodontic treatment that she labeled as “tournament sponsorship” on the office’s expense reports.
Holland faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, but will almost certainly receive much less for her cooperation and potential testimony against Johnson.
Johnson was suspended from office by Gov. Henry McMaster after his September indictment. He had already lost a primary election earlier in the year, largely due to the investigation.
The State newspaper reports prosecutors suggested Johnson may face additional charges. The newspaper reported a prosecutor’s statement expecting an obstruction of justice later this month, but did not give details. Johnson’s trial is scheduled for mid-February.
Johnson has maintained his innocence and said the expenses were job-related. However, he said he had reimbursed the Solicitor’s Office for $25,000 in expenses.
Johnson’s spending was detailed in a series of reports by The State newspaper after the nonprofit group Public Access to Public Records (PAPR) has able to obtain the Solicitor’s Office spending documents. PAPR was represented by former solicitor and Johnson’s political rival Dick Harpootlian’s law firm. The records detailed more than 70 days’ worth of travel over two years, including expensive hotel stays in cities were the University of South Carolina football team was playing that weekend.