More Guilty Pleas in Statehouse Sting
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ A former South Carolina legislator and lobbyist who went undercover for the FBI in a Statehouse sting that nabbed 22 people pleaded guilty Wednesday to possessing cocaine while working for the government.
Also Wednesday, the former chairman of the state Development Board pleaded guilty to cocaine possession and a lobbyist pleaded guilty to possessing marijuana.
The pleas stemmed from ″Operation Lost Trust,″ which began with the FBI recruitment of Ron Cobb, the former state House member and lobbyist who agreed to go undercover in exchange for immunity from prosecution on 1989 drug charges.
As a government operative, Cobb offered cash to lawmakers in exchange for their votes on a bill to allow horse and dog racing in South Carolina, the FBI said.
The sting eventually snared 15 current and former lawmakers, six Statehouse lobbyists and the former Development Board chairman, Dick Greer.
Most pleaded guilty to bribery or drug charges and await sentencing.
Cobb pleaded guilty to two counts of cocaine possession. He faces a maximum fine of $100,000 and one year in prison on each of the charges. A sentencing date was not immediately set and he remained free on bond.
U.S. Attorney Bart Daniel said Cobb violated his immunity agreement by possessing cocaine while working for the government.
Greer pleaded guilty to one count of possessing cocaine in 1988. Greer, former campaign chief for Republican Gov. Carroll Campbell, faces a maximum sentence of $100,000 and one year in prison. No sentencing date was set and he remained free on bond.
Former lobbyist Randy Lee, 37, pleaded guilty to one count of marijuana possession. Lee, who worked for the South Carolina Health Care Association, faces a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. He, too, remained free on bond.
During the 1990 legislative session, Cobb told lawmakers he represented a Georgia company supporting a bill that would legalize betting on horse and dog racing. The company was an FBI front and the bill never passed.
Cobb offered legislators $100 bills in exchange for their votes on the pari-mutuel betting bill. He often wore a hidden microphone and the FBI secretly videotaped lawmakers taking cash bribes in Cobb’s office and hotel room.
Greer, a top strategist in every Campbell campaign since 1976, resigned as head of the Development Board on Jan. 10 amid allegations connecting him to the corruption scandal. He was chairman of Campbell’s re-election campaign in 1990.