6th Person in SCSU Federal Corruption Trial Pleads Guilty

Sixth Defendant Pleads Guilty in SCSU Federal Corruption and Kickbacks Trial

federal corruptionA sixth defendant in the Jonathan Pinson and South Carolina State University federal corruption and kickbacks trial has pleaded guilty.

Edwin Givens, a former attorney and chief of staff at the university, pleaded guilty on Tuesday, May 13th, to one charge of misprision of a felony.

Givens allegedly played a small role in the federal corruption scheme at SCSU. The FBI planted wire taps on several phones for years, listening to a recording conversations between board members and employees at the college, arranging kickbacks and under-the-table deals. The most notorious of these fraudsters is Jonathan Pinson, who is scheduled to go to trial next month.

According to the FBI, Givens agreed to accept $2,000 in a kickback scheme that arranged for a certain band to play at an SCSU homecoming event in 2011. However, Givens only received $500, because the event did not raise as much money as the schemers believed that it would. Reportedly, Givens did not keep the $500 – he held on to it for several days, but ultimately donated it to an SC State educational foundation.

When the FBI interviewed Givens about the kickback and federal corruption later, Givens denied accepting the bribe, not knowing that the FBI had taped him agreeing to the terms.

After he entered a guilty plea, Givens’s attorneys released a statement: “I regret being a part of some phone conversations entailing improper activities. But it is important to stress that I never profited in any way from these illegal activities. Not one single dime.”

“I was in a horrible situation as general counsel to S.C. State,” the statement continued. “During an earlier investigation of a former board member, I was accused of cooperating with authorities and the interim president at the time threatened to fire me. While it is no excuse for not reporting illegal activity, I allowed this and other threats of retaliation to cloud my judgment.”

Under a plea agreement, Givens will only receive six months’ probation if he cooperates with the federal corruption investigation.

Jonathan Pinson has been scheduled to go to trial on kickback and federal corruption charges on June 16th, in a federal court in Columbia.

The Village at River’s Edge and Federal Corruption and Kickback Charges

The November 7th’s indictment added charges related to the building of the Village at River’s Edge, a development handed to Pinson and his corporation The Village at River’s Edge LLC by former Columbia mayor Steve Benjamin, who was a partner and developer in the project before he was elected mayor.

In 2006, Benjamin reportedly helped Pinson create the limited liability corporation to build affordable housing in Columbia. Benjamin’s father, Sam, was also an investor in the project. However, in August 2009, Benjamin sold his and his father’s interest in the company back to Pinson for $492,500. Two days later, Benjamin ran for mayor.

Then, in 2010, the Columbia Housing Authority received a $10 million grant, and awarded $5.6 million to Village at River’s Edge to build 60 townhomes on the property. The indictment alleges that the $5.6 million grant was misuses by Pinson and associates throughout 2011, with an accusation that Pinson paid a kickback to a Columbia employee for facilitating the River’s Edge project in 2009.

The day before the new indictment, Wednesday, November 6th, three of Pinson’s former associates pleaded guilty to bank fraud and conspiracy charges in a federal court in Charleston, SC.

Federal Corruption Defense in South Carolina

Kickbacks refer to a form of negotiated bribery in which one returns part of the purchase price of an item to a buyer or buyer’s representative with the intent of inducing a purchase or improperly influencing purchases in the future.

If you or your company has been accused of kickbacks or federal corruption in South Carolina, a South Carolina federal criminal defense attorney at the Strom Law Firm, LLC can help. With long standing experience with both state and federal cases, we know what it takes to aggressively defend you. Call a South Carolina Criminal Defense Attorney at the Strom Law Firm today for a free consultation. 803.252.4800.

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