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Ex-sheriff faces 4 to 5 years in prison for corruption

January 16, 2022 GMT

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A former sheriff in South Carolina convicted of abusing his power and stealing money from government programs will likely spend about four to five years in federal prison, a judge has determined.

Prosecutors and attorneys for ex-Chester County Sheriff Alex Underwood argued earlier this month how long the proposed range of Underwood’s sentence should be when a judge considers it later.

Judge Michelle Childs settled on potential prison time of 46 to 57 months, The Post and Courier reported.

Federal agents began investigating Underwood after he jailed a man for three days for no reason after the man recorded the aftermath of a police chase and wreck that happened near his home.

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Underwood created a false police report when the FBI started to investigate that said the man stepped out of his yard into the public roadway and cursed at police, according to indictments.

FBI agents would later find Underwood skimmed overtime meant for his deputies, used taxpayer money to fly first-class to a Las Vegas conference with his wife and then tried to cover up that she went and had on-duty deputies work to build a party barn at his home, even pulling officers away from drug stakeouts, prosecutors said.

Underwood and two of his former deputies were convicted nine months ago, but the newspaper said their sentencing has been delayed by appeals, a ransomware attack on the law office of Underwood’s attorneys and COVID-19 issues.

Ex-deputy Johnny Neal Jr. faces about four years in prison, while former deputy Robert Sprouse faces three years behind bars, according to The Post and Courier.

The date for the sentencing has not been set.

Underwood is one of 13 sheriffs in South Carolina’s 46 counties convicted of crimes since 2010. Five of the 12 sentenced before Underwood have received prison time.

A 14th sheriff, Charles Lemon in Marlboro County, was indicted last month on charges he ordered the stun gun shocking of an inmate at his county’s jail