COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) – Two years after federal prosecutors first interviewed Lee County Sheriff's Office Victim's Advocate Angela Ruth, she's charged with the crimes she admitted to committing. Ruth, who testified for prosecutors against former Sheriff EJ Melvin, has pleaded "not guilty" to three criminal charges.
Ruth faces one count of stealing money from the victim's advocate fund and two counts of lying to the FBI. It's not know as of this report why federal prosecutors chose to bring charges more than two years later.
Federal prosecutors were looking into where more than $12,000 in Lee County Victims Advocate funds went between 2008 and 2010 while they were investigating former sheriff Melvin, who was convicted of running a drug conspiracy ring while he served as sheriff.
Melvin is currently serving an 18 year prison sentence at the Beaumont, TX federal penitentiary after a federal jury convicted him of multiple criminal conspiracy, racketeering and extortion counts in November 2010. Melvin used his office to protect drug dealers from prosecutors, then Melvin would "shakedown" those same dealers for payments.
The 2010 investigation led FBI agents to the former sheriff's Victim Advocate's office and a stack of checks, signed by Angela Ruth.
Federal investigators interviewed Ruth, on July 15, 2010 while FBI agents were in the process of tracking down Melvin's finances.
Sheriff Daniel Simon told WIS in 2010 that Ruth resigned Sept. 20 for "personal reasons." Simon would not talk about the specifics surrounding Ruth's departure, but Simon knew she was under investigation by the FBI.
Agents started investigating Ruth "because a review of Melvin's personal bank account records from SAFE Federal Credit Union showed that over $12,000 in checks were written to Melvin out of the Lee County Victim's Advocate fund," according to court records.
The checks were for reimbursements for Melvin's catering services. In a July 15 interview with investigators, Ruth admitted she had a 12 year affair with Melvin. Ruth told investigators that Melvin would send her an invoice for his catering services, on events "that had little or nothing to do with providing services to crime victims," according to court records. Ruth denied that she ever received any kickbacks from the funds she provided Melvin until federal agents interviewed her a second time.
During the second meeting, agents said Ruth hired Columbia attorney Charles Johnson. Ruth admitted to investigators that she received a "cut" of the checks she issued Melvin only after agents played a recorded phone call between she and Melvin, the filing states.
Court records show Ruth "admitted that when Melvin told her that he would give sic to you, he was telling her that she would get $600.00 in cash if she cut him a check for $1,640 from the Victim's Advocate fund." Ruth told investigators that in 2008, Melvin started charging "extremely high prices" for the catering services. That's when agents said Ruth asked Melvin to "cut her in on the deal." The pair agreed that Ruth would write Melvin checks, "without questioning his bills," according to the court filing.
At some point during the pair's relationship and money laundering scheme, Ruth told Melvin "that she was concerned that he was associating with too many drug dealers," records showed. Melvin told Ruth that he was "untouchable," according to federal agents.
Agents documented a string of six checks deposited into Melvin's account, from the victims advocate account in 2009. The checks totaled $9,300. Ruth, according to court records, received at least $1,300 as a "cut" from Melvin.
Ruth is free on $25,000 bond.