Jonathan Pinson Receives More Charges in Federal Kickback Case

Former SCSU Chairman and Cohort Face More Charges in Federal Kickback Case

federal kickback chargesOn Thursday, November 7th, new criminal charges were filed in the federal kickback case against Jonathan Pinson and Eric Robinson, some in connection with Columbia’s multimillion dollar Village at River’s Edge development.

The Columbia branch of the US Attorney’s Office is now charging Pinson with 51 counts of various kinds of fraud and illegal activities, including federal kickback charges, and Robinson with 11 counts of federal kickback fraud and illegal activity.

Pinson is the former chairman of South Carolina State University’s board of trustees. The new 69-page indictment alleges that Pinson and Robinson used their political and personal connections to commit white collar crimes.

Some of the alleged crimes include money laundering through shell corporations, bribes, kickbacks, racketeering, extortion, and the use of public funds and bank loans for illegal purposes.

The indictment focuses on Pinson as the ringleader, as federal prosecutors believe he is the mastermind behind the wrongdoing. They noted that he was “routinely at the heart of this criminal activity.”

The Village at River’s Edge and Federal Kickback Charges

Thursday’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.

In an interview on Thursday, Benjamin denied any knowledge of federal kickback violations or other white collar crimes at the Village at River’s Edge development, and said he could not comment on the indictment because he had not read it.

“I had no inkling,” Benjamin said. “I just continue to pray for Jonathon and his family, and I hope that justice runs its course and everybody gets their day in court. Hopefully, all questions are asked, and all are answered … Until then, I’m not going to talk about it at all. But I will say, I do welcome any scrutiny into my conduct regarding the Village at River’s Edge.”

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 Kickback 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.

Under federal law, kickbacks involving government officials or public funds provided by the government are illegal.

Not all kickbacks are considered illegal. If a kickback does not specifically violate the federal or state law, the kickback may be considered normal, legal and tax deductible. Tax deductibility is prohibited by an official, employee of the federal government or an official or employee of a foreign government.

If you or your company has been accused of kickbacks, or violation of federal kickback law, 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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