Former South Carolina Sheriff, Two Deputies Going To Prison For Abuse Of Office - DOJ

WASHINGTON (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 12th July, 2022) Three former South Carolina law enforcement officers were sentenced, among other things, for enriching themselves, obstructing justice, unlawfully detaining a man who filmed their response to an accident, and using on-duty employees from the sheriff's office to do manual labor or other services, the US Department of Justice said Tuesday.

"Former Chester County Sheriff George Alexander Underwood, 59, of Chester; Chief Deputy Robert Andrew Sprouse, 47, of Ridgeway; and former Chester County Sheriff's Office Lieutenant Johnny Ricardo Neal Jr., 42, of Lancaster, were convicted of conspiracy to violate Federal law and to commit federal program theft in April 2021 following a 10-day jury trial," prosecutors said. "Underwood and Neal were additionally convicted of deprivation of rights and wire fraud. Sprouse and Neal were additionally convicted of falsifying records, and Sprouse was found guilty of making false statements."

Prosecutors said Underwood, Sprouse, and Neal conspired to use their positions to steal money and then attempted to cover up their illegal actions and hinder investigations into what they had done.

As it relates to the incident where a citizen filmed sheriff's officers response to a crash scene, prosecutors said that on November 20, 2018, Neal and Underwood violated the Chester County resident's rights and arrested and detained him without cause.

When the FBI began investigating these civil rights violations, Sprouse and Neal created false incident reports, while Sprouse made false statements to the FBI to cover up the officers' misconduct. Prosecutors also said that the trio used on-duty employees from the Sheriff's Office to do manual labor or other services that benefited Underwood and Sprouse. This included having the employees assist with extensive renovations of a barn on Underwood's property adding a bar, a television viewing area, and other amenities to the space.

At different times, Underwood and Sprouse also took their families on a trip to a conference in Reno, Nevada, and charged the costs to the sheriff's office. In addition, Underwood and Neal stole money from payments owed to other sheriff's office employees for off-duty work at public safety checkpoints, prosecutors explained.

The men were fired from the Chester County Sheriff's Office in May 2019 after they were indicted by a federal grand jury. Underwood and Neal were each sentenced to 46 months, and Sprouse was sentenced to two years in prison.