Three former Orangeburg County law enforcement officers have admitted their roles in various immigration and drug schemes.
Nathaniel Miller Shazier III, Allan Hunter and Stanley LaValle Timmons formally entered guilty pleas this week, although federal court records show they reached plea agreements over the past couple of months.
Tarang Patel, of Newport, Kentucky, also pleaded guilty to his role in the case.
Shazier, who was employed as an Orangeburg County deputy at the time of his arrest, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and methamphetamine.
Hunter, who’d left the sheriff’s office and was employed as a Springfield police officer at the time of his arrest, pleaded guilty to conspiracy, conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and methamphetamine and four counts of visa fraud.
Timmons, who was employed as an Orangeburg County deputy at the time of his arrest, pleaded guilty to conspiracy.
T. Patel pleaded guilty to conspiracy and visa fraud.
A U.S. District judge will sentence them at a later date.
Charges remain for former sheriff’s office deputies Carolyn Colter Franklin, Willie Paul David Rogers and Lacra Jenkins, who was Springfield police chief at the time of his arrest. James Allen Tucker, who presented himself as a reserve deputy, is also facing charges. The sheriff’s office states he’s never been part of the agency.
Saurabhkumar “Sonny” Patel, of Orangeburg, is also facing charges.
The Patels and other individuals, who the indictment doesn’t name, were accused of paying bribes for the creation of fraudulent incident reports and law enforcement certification forms, which are required for foreigners submitting U-visa applications.
U-visas allow the victims of crimes to remain in the United States while they help authorities investigate those crimes.
Federal agents began investigating the case when the S.C. Law Enforcement Division received a tip that an Orangeburg County deputy was selling U-visa documents, according to The State newspaper.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s sting began in the spring of 2018 and came to an end this past March 29 when agents arrested all nine.
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A federal agent, who pretended to work for a shipping company, contacted a deputy and said he needed documents for his employees.
The indictment alleges that on Feb. 6, 2018, Franklin agreed to assist in making a fraudulent incident report in exchange for a bribe. Hunter then created the phony incident report on Feb. 12, 2018.
In exchange for the phony incident reports, Franklin and Hunter received laptop computers, a Microsoft Xbox gaming system, an Amazon speaker and a television, the indictment claims.
By late August 2018, Franklin allegedly agreed to accept additional bribes for her and Hunter to provide future assistance in obtaining phony incident reports and law enforcement certification forms.
The indictment accuses Franklin of creating another phony incident report with Rogers allegedly approving it on Sept. 28, 2018.
By Nov. 7, 2018, the federal agent switched up his operation. He told Hunter he was a member of a Mexican drug cartel and needed his help, The State reported.
Hunter agreed to assist, allegedly with Franklin’s help.
Prosecutors allege the two thought the federal agent was a narcotics trafficker and they agreed to protect tractor-trailers containing narcotics trafficking proceeds.
Then on Dec. 4, 2018, Hunter, Shazier and Jenkins allegedly agreed to protect the tractor-trailers in exchange for bribes.
The State reported that the officers wore their uniforms while guarding the trucks and even took pictures so undercover agents knew the trucks were OK.
Over the two days that followed, Hunter, Franklin, Shazier, Jenkins and Tucker allegedly protected the tractor-trailers and accepted bribes.
By mid-February 2019, Hunter, Tucker and Timmons allegedly agreed to protect more empty tractor-trailers which they believed contained narcotics trafficking proceeds in exchange for bribes.
At that point, Hunter, Tucker, Shazier, Jenkins and Franklin also allegedly agreed to protect tractor-trailers containing kilogram quantities of methamphetamines and cocaine in the future.
Sentencing dates have not yet been set for Shazier, Hunter, Timmons and T. Patel.
Shazier and Hunter each face a maximum of 20 years in prison, a $1 million fine and a term of supervised release of at least three years.
Timmons faces a maximum term of five years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and a term of supervised release of at least three years.
T. Patel faces a maximum term of 10 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and up to three years of supervised release.
Jury selection is currently scheduled for Nov. 8 in the case. A jury may get a chance to decide if Franklin, Rogers, Jenkins, Tucker and S. Patel are guilty as charged.