Chester County, South Carolina - A federal jury convicted a former South Carolina sheriff and two of his former deputies of conspiracy and a range of other charges, such as deprivation of civil rights during an unlawful arrest, falsification of records, and various charges relating to their misuse of funds and personnel.
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, former Sheriff of Chester County, South Carolina, George Alexander Underwood, 57, of Chester, former Chester County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Robert Andrew Sprouse, 46, of Ridgeway, and former Chester County Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Johnny Ricardo Neal Jr., 41, of Lancaster, conspired to use their positions to enrich themselves by obtaining money to which they were not entitled, cover up their misconduct, and obstruct investigations into their misconduct. Evidence showed Underwood and Sprouse violated the rights of a Chester County resident, K.S., who was filming the Sheriff’s Office’s response to a crash scene on Nov. 20, 2018, by arresting him without probable cause. When the FBI began investigating these civil rights violations, Sprouse and Neal tried to cover up what happened by creating a false incident reports and Sprouse made false statements to the FBI.
Additionally, court documents and evidence presented at trial showed the three defendants directed on-duty Sheriff’s Office employees to provide manual labor or other services that personally benefited Underwood and Sprouse, including requiring them to help with extensive renovations of a barn on Underwood’s property in order to add a bar, a television viewing area, and other amenities. Underwood and Sprouse took family members on a trip to a conference in Reno, Nevada, and charged the cost to the Sheriff’s Office. Underwood and Neal also engaged in a scheme in which they skimmed money from payments owed to other Sheriff’s Office employees for off-duty work at public safety checkpoints.
Underwood, Sprouse, and Neal were removed from their positions with the Chester County Sheriff’s Office in approximately May 2019 after they were initially indicted by a federal grand jury.
Underwood was convicted of conspiracy, deprivation of rights, federal program theft, and wire fraud. Sprouse was convicted of conspiracy, falsification of records, false statements, and federal program theft. Neal was convicted of conspiracy, deprivation of rights, falsification of records, federal program theft, and wire fraud. A sentencing date has not yet been set. Each defendant faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence
Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division made the announcement.
The FBI investigated the case. The Office of the Attorney General of South Carolina and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division aided the investigation.
Trial Attorneys William M. Miller and Rebecca M. Schuman of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section are prosecuting the case. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina investigated and initially indicted the case.