Five people have been convicted in a counterfeit check ring in which homeless people were recruited from Columbia area parks to cash fraudulent checks, the U.S. Attorney's Office said Thursday.
Shawnetta Shawntae Wise, 23, of Columbia, pleaded guilty to participating in a counterfeit pay check ring. In the past six weeks, four co-defendants from Columbia - Cisco Vandelly Knightner, 30, Ellis Darnell Hand, 21, Richard Corbin, 40, and Brandon George Henry Wise, 22 - were convicted for their roles in the ring.
All will be sentenced later.
Area merchants who cashed the counterfeit checks lost more than $47,000 over a five-month period in 2008, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
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The maximum penalty Wise and her co-defendants face is a $250,000 fine and five years in prison.
- Staff Reports
Virginia man guilty of threatening S.C. judges
A Virginia man has been found guilty of e-mailing threats to kill white judges in South Carolina.
Acting U.S. Attorney Kevin McDonald says 61-year-old Stephen Rosenberg faces up to 15 years in prison after Wednesday's verdict.
In 2003, a federal judge dismissed a civil suit Rosenberg had filed against the U.S. claiming he had been unlawfully arrested. When the judge did not reinstate the case, authorities say, Rosenberg sent e-mails and letters to the court, including one that threatened to kill white judges in South Carolina.
FBI agents arrested Rosenberg in July at his Alexandria, Va., home, a week after he was indicted by a grand jury in South Carolina.
Rosenberg will face up to 15 years in prison when he is sentenced in June.
- The Associated Press
Man gets eight years for mortgage fraud
Randal Antoine, 36, of Columbia, was sentenced Thursday in federal court to eight years in prison for his participation in a mortgage fraud scheme.
Antoine pleaded guilty in November to wire fraud and illegally using Social Security numbers in connection with the scheme. Acting U.S. Attorney Kevin F. McDonald said Antoine defrauded AmeriDream Inc., a company that provides down payment assistance to first-time home buyers.
McDonald said Antoine posed as a mortgage loan originator, applying to AmeriDream for funds on behalf of purported clients, in some cases using stolen identities and Social Security numbers of Midlands residents. Between February and September 2008, he falsely represented to AmeriDream that 38 different loans would be closing, causing AmeriDream to transfer about $328,000 to him. In fact, no closings took place.
Overall, the scheme involved loans of $4.7 million, with Antoine retaining more than $570,000 for his own use. Antoine was ordered to pay full restitution and forfeit a BMW automobile he bought with proceeds from the scheme.
- Staff Reports
Nettle's nomination moves to Senate floor
The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday sent Columbia attorney Bill Nettles' name to the U.S. Senate for confirmation as U.S. Attorney for South Carolina.
The committee approval moves Nettles' nomination to the Senate floor. He is now just one step away from being named U.S. Attorney.
Now that the Judiciary Committee has approved Nettles, it is likely the full Senate will vote to confirm him, said University of Richmond Law School constitutional law professor Carl Tobias.
"This should move fairly quickly now. The Republicans in the Senate have not been holding up U.S. Attorney nominations," said Tobias. "And Nettles is not controversial."
- John Monk
Columbia's tap water No. 1 in taste test
There's something cold and refreshing about "famously hot" Columbia: its tap water.
The city's public water won top prize this weekend in a taste test pitting it against treated water from 11 other South Carolina municipalities, including Charleston and Greenville.
The tasting was part of the S.C. Environmental Conference in Myrtle Beach, sponsored by the S.C. section of the American Waterworks Association and the Water Environment Association of South Carolina.
Behind Columbia's was the tap water of Greenwood and Camden, the city said in a news release.
An independent group of panelists did the judging from samples of chilled tap water supplied by each entrant.
- Staff Reports
Celebrity Mercury cruise ends a day early
CHARLESTON - A cruise liner hit by an outbreak of intestinal illness for a third straight trip from South Carolina returned a day early Thursday as operator Celebrity Cruises brought in extra crew to scrub the ship down for three days.
The Celebrity Mercury arrived about 2 a.m., and passengers began disembarking as the sun rose over Charleston. The company said 369 of more than 1,800 passengers became ill following a March 8 departure.
Hundreds of passengers got sick with the norovirus on two previous Mercury cruises this year from Charleston. The norovirus can spread quickly in closed quarters with symptoms including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the cause of the outbreak on the latest cruise has not yet been determined.
When the first Mercury cruise returned Feb. 26, the vessel remained in port an extra day for cleaning. This time, the Mercury will remain three days for cleaning before it is scheduled to sail again Sunday.
Celebrity Cruises spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez said the line is bringing 50 additional crew members to Charleston to help clean.
CDC spokesman Ricardo Beato said the sailing could be delayed if government vessel sanitation officials or the Celebrity Cruises staff feel there hasn't been enough time to decontaminate.
- The Associated Press