Crime & Courts

Sweeping fed indictment targets SC ‘Travelers’ for major financial crimes

Approximate outline in Google Maps of Murphy Village in Aiken County, SC
Approximate outline in Google Maps of Murphy Village in Aiken County, SC

A sweeping 45-count federal indictment against 22 residents of the North Augusta area, including more than a dozen of the Irish Travelers’ group, was issued Tuesday by a federal grand jury.

The indictment alleges that the defendants, most of whom live in Murphy Village in Aiken County, were part of an organized crime ring. They are accused of committing major financial frauds, among them money laundering, as part of illegal schemes involving life insurance, food stamps, Medicaid funds and auto financing.

“Many of the defendants are Travelers and reside in Murphy Village where they own large homes, luxury cars and expensive jewelry and clothes, which are often acquired through the fraud schemes,” the indictment alleges.

Victims in the Travelers’ alleged crime scheme include state and federal governments as well as various unnamed people who “appeared to be vulnerable and naive” and whom Travelers convinced to buy “deceptive and fraudulent construction and service work,” the indictment says. The indictment does not say specifically where the alleged crimes took place.

Victims also included various unnamed insurance companies and lenders, as well as people who bought Travelers’ used vehicles that had the odometers of their vehicles illegally rolled back, the indictment says. Defendants also are accused of transporting unspecified stolen items from state to state.

The indictment, the result of a joint federal-state law enforcement task force including the FBI and IRS, is the most concerted crackdown effort on alleged criminals in the Irish Travelers in years. It is also the most serious.

Across the Carolinas, Irish Travelers have for years attracted sporadic news coverage for their various handymen who travel the Carolinas and Georgia ripping off unsuspecting homeowners by doing shoddy repair work after being paid up front in cash. One of their biggest reported scams has been paving driveways with substandard material.

While Tuesday’s indictment refers to sham construction work, it goes far beyond that, charging the 22 defendants with violations of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, commonly called RICO, and alleges they were part of a major, concerted criminal enterprise.

Anyone convicted will be subject to fines of $250,000 per violation and a 20-year prison sentence.

Federal prosecutors also seek to confiscate five Traveler houses in North Augusta and 24 high-end vehicles, including a 2015 Porsche, a 2015 Mercedes, and three each of late model BMWs, Lexuses and Lincolns.

According to the indictment, the Travelers’ alleged ongoing criminal enterprise had numerous parts:

▪ Submitting false information about their income and employment on federal food stamp applications so they would qualify for “benefits to which they were not entitled.”

▪ Making false statements about income and employment on applications for federal Medicaid health insurance to qualify for benefits that are supposed to go only to the low-income.

▪ Regularly defrauding financial institutions, lenders and auto financing companies when obtaining loans by submitting false information.

▪ Defrauding life insurance companies by submitting false information regarding the insured’s health and finances to those companies.

▪ Laundering money obtained by unlawful activities.

▪ Conducting financial transactions with banks in ways intended to disguise the source and ownership of various unspecified unlawful activities.

▪ Structuring banking withdrawals and deposits into amounts of less than $10,000 to avoid bank reporting requirements.

The indictment also says, without elaborating, that defendants and their associates “defrauded a person known to the grand jury by using interstate wires and facilitates of interstate commerce.”

Approximately half the defendants are women.

Prosecutors in the case are assistant U.S. Attorneys Jim May and Jay Richardson of the Columbia office and Rhett Dehart in the Charleston office.

Besides the FBI and IRS, investigating agencies included: the federal Marshal’s Service,U. S. Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the S.C. Attorney General’s Office’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and the S. C. Department of Social Services.

The indicted

Defendants indicted Tuesday are:

Hannah Carroll, Rose Mulholland, Kim Mulholland, Caroline Sherlock, Catherine Carroll, Anthony Carroll, Johnny M. Sherlock, Mary Rita Sherlock, Leslie Ann Sherlock, Jimmy J. Carroll, Mary Costello, Mary Gorman Carroll, Jimmy Gorman, Leslie C. Gorman, Renee Carroll, Rose S. Mulholland, Susan Sherlock, Tommy Sherlock, William Caroll, Johnny Mack, Leonard New and Angela Askew.

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