Former Williamsburg County sheriff sentenced for felony crime

Former Williamsburg County sheriff sentenced for felony crime

Columbia, South Carolina (News Release) - A former Williamsburg County sheriff was sentenced Wednesday for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, according to U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles.

Michael L. Johnson, age 39, of Salters, and Lester L. Woods, age 49, of Columbia were sentenced for the crime. Johnson was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment and Woods to 33 months imprisonment.

Both men were ordered restitution and imposed 3 years supervised release to follow the terms of imprisonment. Both were convicted in September 2014 after a four-day trial.

Evidence presented at the trial established that Woods held himself out as a credit repair specialist. People would come to him to raise their credit scores, sometimes paying him over $1,000. He then got in touch with former Sheriff Michael Johnson, said Nettles.

Johnson would write up police reports, or incident reports, saying that a particular client of Woods had been a victim of identity theft in Williamsburg County. He would then send the incident report to Woods.

Nettles explained the process, by stating the following:

"Woods would often write out a cover page of accounts that supposedly were fraudulent, attach the incident report Johnson wrote, and fax it to Equifax. Once Equifax received the report, it relied on the information sent by Woods and Johnson as true and deleted those debts and other derogatory information from Woods' clients' credit history. When the bad debts were removed from the credit history, the credit score of the client would often go up. This made it more likely that the client could be extended credit or get more loans, but since the underlying debt often remained, the client was much more likely to default on the new debt."

In all, Woods and Johnson caused to be suppressed over $11 million dollars in credit information.