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Staffer for Richland Solicitor Johnson had history of financial woes

Nicole Holland's office credit card showing an orthodontist's charge
Nicole Holland's office credit card showing an orthodontist's charge John Monk

Despite repeated previous financial problems, Nicole Holland, 49, a top staffer in 5th Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson’s office, was allowed to charge tens of thousands of dollars of items on office credit cards, according to The State newspaper's examination of credit card statements dating back to 2011.

Holland, Johnson’s director of communications, was convicted on seven misdemeanor charges of writing fraudulent checks and two misdemeanor charges of forgery from 1991 to 1999 in Richland and Lexington counties, according to State Law Enforcement Division records. Those charges resulted in fines and suspended sentences.

In the solicitor's office, Holland made hundreds of charges on office credit cards from 2011 through November 2017.

Many of the charges appear to be legitimate office purchases. Others — including a $1,020 charge in March 2017 to an orthodontist in Hopkinsville, Ky. — appear to be personal. It is not known whether Holland reimbursed the Solicitor's Office for any of the charges.

Holland’s spending is now the subject of ongoing investigations by the State Law Enforcement Division and the FBI, according to sources familiar with those investigations.

Fifth Circuit Solicitor Johnson, whose spending also is under investigation, told reporters Friday that Holland remains on his staff while an independent auditor reviews his office's finances. However, her credit card privileges have been rescinded, said Johnson, the chief law enforcement officer in Richland and Kershaw counties, where he supervises criminal prosecutions.

Asked about Holland's previous financial convictions and the current investigations, Holland's lawyer, Sloan Ellis of Greenville, said, “Ms. Holland will continue to fully cooperate with the ongoing independent audit. We have no further comment at this time.”

Johnson said Friday that no one in his office audited spending.

Records of spending in Johnson’s office from 2011 through November 2017 are being released by Public Access to Public Records, a Columbia-based nonprofit watchdog group. PAPR has released some 20,000 records so far.

Those records show that:

In nine months of 2017, Holland charged $72,000 on various Solicitor's Office credit cards

In seven months of 2016, she charged $53,000

In one month of 2015, she charged $6,154

In nine months of 2014, she charged some $48,000

The records show Holland made dozens of purchases, some online and others at stores..

In January and early February 2017, for example, Holland charged more than 53 separate items to her office credit card.

The charges included: $537 to Baudville, a North Carolina trophy company; $35 to Arnold’s Cleaners; $2,434 on 10 separate visits to various Sam’s and Walmarts, and $780 for nine Columbia-area restaurants, ranging from Egg Roll Chen to Chick-fil-A to Ruths Chris Steakhouse.

The Post and Courier of Charleston, using records obtained by Public Access to Public Records, first raised the issue of Holland’s spending. That paper reported Holland charged thousands of dollars on her office credit card for a celebration in Hopkinsvillle, Ky., for her nephew's graduation, first-class airplane tickets from Nashville to Myrtle Beach when her sister died, and the $1,020 orthodontist's bill.

According to SLED, Holland was:

Convicted in July 1991 in Richland County of writing a fraudulent check. She was given a suspended sentence.

Convicted in April 1993 in Richland County of writing a fraudulent check. She paid court costs.

Convicted in June 1993 of two counts of forgery in Lexington County and given a two-year suspended sentence and two years on probation

Convicted of four counts of writing fraudulent checks in Richland County in 1993. She paid a $98 fine on each count.

Convicted of a count of writing a fraudulent check in 1999 in Richland County and paid $20 in court costs.

All of the charges were misdemeanors.

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