ABBEVILLE – An Abbeville man will spend the next two decades in prison after pleading guilty Tuesday afternoon to charges in connection to a 2022 home invasion and rape, 8th Circuit Solicitor David M. Stumbo announced Wednesday.
Andre Charles Bridges, 59, of Abbeville pleaded guilty Tuesday afternoon at the Abbeville County Courthouse to charges of first-degree burglary and first-degree criminal sexual conduct. Circuit Judge Donald B. Hocker then sentenced Bridges to 20 years in prison. Due to the nature of the offenses, Bridges must serve at least 85 percent of the sentence before being considered for parole.
In March 2022, the victim awoke to get ready for work and found Bridges sitting on the couch in her living room. As she attempted to flee, Bridges chased and caught her, armed with a knife. The victim struggled to get free and Bridges threw her to the floor. The victim was able to fight Bridges off as he began sexually assaulting her. Bridges then fled the home and the victim called 911.
Investigators with the Abbeville County Sheriff’s Office received information that Bridges may have been involved and began trying to locate him. Investigators located Bridges later the same day and, after initially denying involvement, confessed to entering the home, saying he was looking for money and drugs. Bridges never admitted to assaulting the victim while in her home, but the forensic evidence recovered from the scene, including DNA from the rape kit and the other items collected corroborated the victim’s story.
Deputy Solicitor Micah Black handled the case for the state with assistance from 8th Circuit Investigator Chris Wilkie and Victim Advocate Sarah Parris. Bridges was represented by Jane Merrill of the 8th Circuit Public Defender’s Office.
Solicitor Stumbo praised the work of his staff, along with Inv. Mac Gladden formerly of the Abbeville County Sheriff’s Office and Abbeville County Victim Advocate Monique Bell, in securing the conviction and lengthy prison sentence without having the victim testify and relive the trauma of the incident.
“Anytime we are able to secure a conviction and long prison sentence handed to a dangerous predator, without a victim having to relive one of the worst moments of her life on a witness stand, it is a good day in the courtroom,” Solicitor Stumbo said. “It is my prayer that this survivor of sexual assault can continue healing from this horrific event while knowing that her attacker will be behind bars for many years to come.”
Four plead guilty on riot charges
COLUMBIA – Four inmates pleaded guilty to various charges Thursday for their part in the 2018 riot at Lee Correctional Institution.
Thursday’s pleas were the first in the incident, which left seven inmates dead and dozens wounded the night of April 15, 2018.
All of the inmates in Thursday’s pleas lived in the same housing unit on the night of the riot.
“These inmates took part in violent mayhem fueled by contraband and illegal cellphones and are now being held accountable,” SCDC Director Bryan Stirling said. “This is just the beginning. We intend to prosecute everyone charged with crimes involving the Lee riot.”
Authorities have said they learned of growing violence in adjacent housing units through the use of contraband cellphones, then joined in the melee.
“The SLED SWAT Team worked with SCDC’s Emergency Response Teams to secure a dangerous situation, preventing further loss of life. A subsequent joint investigation by SLED and SCDC made sure those responsible were brought to justice,” SLED Chief Mark Keel said. “SLED is committed to assisting state partners like SCDC, with the hope that one day what happened at Lee Correctional five years ago can be prevented in the future.”
All of the inmates in Thursday’s pleas are still incarcerated. Their new sentences will be incorporated into their existing ones. The contraband referred to in the charges involves weapons.
Mike Smalls, 28, pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and battery by mob and conspiracy. He was sentenced to 18 years on the mob charge and five years for conspiracy. These charges are concurrent. Smalls received three years credit for time served.
Rahim F. Carter, 40, pleaded guilty to possession of contraband. He was sentenced to five years and received three years credit for time served.
Tyrone Lewis Jr., 34, pleaded guilty to possession of contraband. He was sentenced to three years and received three years credit for time served.
Arsenio Donta C. Colclough, 36, pleaded guilty to possession of contraband. He was sentenced to three years credit for time served. Colclough is currently housed in the Sumter-Lee Detention Center on unrelated charges.
The agencies thank the S.C. Attorney General’s office for its assistance in prosecuting these cases.
Attorney General Alan Wilson announces State Grand Jury indicts 5 people for public corruption and contraband smuggling at McCormick Correctional Institution
COLUMBIA - South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson announced that the South Carolina State Grand Jury has issued indictments of five South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) sworn officers for their alleged participation in lucrative conspiracies to smuggle large amounts of contraband, including marijuana, other illicit drugs, and cell phones, into the McCormick Correctional Institution. These indictments followed a multi-jurisdictional investigation with cooperation among a number of law enforcement agencies in the area. These indictments arose from a State Grand Jury investigation known as “Gatekeeper”.
The State Grand Jury returned five indictments alleging multiple but connected charges and conspiracies relating to corruption of office and smuggling of dangerous contraband to inmates at the McCormick facility.
“As I’ve said many times, a prison is no place for a cell phone. Illegal cell phones and the contraband trade drive not only a highly lucrative black market, but also contribute to gang power, gang rivalries, and gang violence both inside and outside the prison walls,” Attorney General Wilson said. “The Attorney General’s Office has an ongoing and extensive partnership with SLED and SCDC, and we will continue to aggressively root out corruption within the prison system and seek justice for anyone who violates their oaths of office. No one is above the law.”
"It's always disappointing when a law enforcement officer breaks the public trust," SCDC Director Bryan Stirling said. "We are working hard to make sure all of these defendants are fully prosecuted."
The investigation has thus far returned five indictments covering five defendants, the charges listed below against the named individuals:
(1) Brittany Marie Pixley
2022-GS-47-27 (McCormick County) (Superseding Indictment)
i. Misconduct in Office (4 counts): 0-10 years
ii. Sexual Misconduct with an Inmate: 0-10 years
iii. Criminal Conspiracy: 0-5 years or $5,000
iv. Money Laundering, value $300 to $20,000 (2 counts): 0-5 years and up to $250,000 or twice the value of financial transactions, whichever greater
(2) Judy Willis Mather
2022-GS-47-32 (McCormick County)
i. Misconduct in Office: 0-10 years
ii. Criminal Conspiracy: 0-5 years or $5,000
iii. Money Laundering, value greater than $100,000: 0-20 years and up to $250,000 or twice the value of financial transactions, whichever greater
(3) Shaquaila Ewnique Morgan
2022-GS-47-31 (McCormick County) (Superseding Indictment)
i. Misconduct in Office (4 counts): 25-30 years and $200,000
ii. Criminal Conspiracy: 0-5 years or $5,000
iii. Money Laundering: Money Laundering, value $300 to $20,000: 0-5 years and up to $250,000 or twice the value of financial transactions, whichever greater
(4) Dion T. Gaines
2023-GS-47-XX (McCormick County)
i. Misconduct in Office: 0-10 years
ii. Criminal Conspiracy: 0-5 years or $5,000
iii. Money Laundering, value $300 to $20,000 (2 counts): 0-5 years and up to $250,000 or twice the value of financial transactions, whichever greater
iv. Ethics Violation: 0-10 years and $10,000
(5) George Stevenson Leverette
2023-GS-47-XX (Edgefield County)
i. Trafficking Methamphetamine, 100-200 grams: 25 years and $50,000 (124.75 grams of methamphetamine confiscated)
ii. Possession of a Schedule II Controlled Substance (Amphetamine): 0-6 months and $1,000
iii. Unlawful Possession of Prescription Medication (Sildenafil): 0-2 years and $500
iv. Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Violent Crime: 5 years in addition to the punishment provided for the principal crime
Bond will be set shortly for Defendants Gaines and Leverette. The remaining defendants received various surety bonds to ensure their future appearances in court.
The case was investigated by the South Carolina State Grand Jury, which was assisted in this case by a partnership of the Attorney General’s State Grand Jury Division, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), the South Carolina Department of Corrections Office of the Inspector General, SCDC Criminal Prosecution Division, McCormick County Sheriff’s Office, and the Edgefield County Sheriff’s Office. The cases will be prosecuted by Assistant Deputy Attorney General David Fernandez, Assistant Attorney General Christina Allard, Special Assistant Attorney General Stephen Lunsford, Special Assistant Attorney General Margaret Scott, and State Grand Jury Division Chief Attorney Creighton Waters.
Attorney General Wilson stressed that all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until they are proven guilty in a court of law.
Nine South Carolina Department of Corrections Inmates and Six Others Charged in Nearly $5 Million Fraud Scheme
COLUMBIA — A federal grand jury has returned a 51-count indictment against nine current or former inmates in the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) and six other individuals who were either friends or relatives of the inmates for wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
The indictment alleges that, beginning in March 2020 and continuing through December 2020, nine SCDC inmates engaged in a scheme to fraudulently obtain various COVID-19 unemployment benefits administered through the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce (SCDEW) and through Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Nevada, New Jersey, Missouri, Arizona, and California.
The indictment further alleges the defendants conspired and coordinated with other inmates and friends and relatives outside of SCDC to submit unemployment claims to
SCDEW using the Personal Identification Information (PII) of both inmates in SCDC and individuals outside the prison system.
The incarcerated inmates harvested PII, like social security numbers and dates of birth, from other inmates and used the PII to apply for COVID unemployment benefits in the names of those inmates as well as themselves. Some inmates provided their PII willingly in exchange for a portion of the proceeds derived from the unemployment benefits. Other inmates had no knowledge that unemployment benefits were being applied for on their behalf.
The incarcerated defendants also obtained the PII of unwitting individuals outside of SCDC using various extortion schemes. One of the primary schemes utilized by the defendants was known as “Johning.” Using contraband cellphones within SCDC, inmates posed as younger males or females and lured individuals to send them nude or compromising photos. After obtaining the photos, the inmates contacted the victims posing as law enforcement. The inmates then extorted the victims into sending them money and/or photos of their social security cards and driver’s licenses.
The non-incarcerated defendants received the unemployment benefits in the names of the extortion victims and SCDC inmates in the form of government checks and prepaid Visa debit cards. They then used ATM withdrawals, wire transfers, and mobile banking applications to make the proceeds available to the incarcerated defendants.
In total, the indictment alleges the fraudulent scheme resulted in a loss of approximately $4,996,673.00 to the United States Government.
The specific charges in the indictment are as follows:
Reginald Raynard White, Jr., an SCDC inmate, faces twenty counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud;
Christopher Ford, an SCDC inmate, faces one count of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud;
•Stepheno Lemain Alston, an SCDC inmate, faces seven counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud;
Each alleged count of wire fraud and each alleged count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1,000,000.
All charges in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. This investigation remains ongoing.
The case was investigated by the United States Secret Service; the South Carolina Department of Corrections, Office of Inspector General; and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, with assistance from the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Winston Holliday and Scott Matthews are prosecuting the case.