FORMER MAGISTRATE OFFERED UP DETAILS OF POKER OPERATION, KEY POLITICAL SUPPORTERS
The former Lexington County, S.C. magistrate rumored to have helped bust open the “Lexington Ring” – an illegal video poker operation located in the Midlands region of South Carolina – first began dishing on the politicians associated with this corrupt cabal several years ago.
Jamie Lucas – now a Richland County Sheriff’s deputy – reportedly provided state law enforcement officers and members of the media with audio tapes featuring Lexington, S.C. town councilman (and part-time Lexington County Sheriff’s Department employee) Danny Frazier. On these tapes Frazier walks a “prospective client” through the particulars of the ring’s operations, claiming at various points to have local cops, politicians and judges in his pocket.
Among the politicians referenced in these recordings? Columbia, S.C. Mayor Steve Benjamin, Lexington County Sheriff James Metts and State Senators Ronnie Cromer and Jakie Knotts … just to name a few. Frazier initially denied making any of the comments captured on tape, however he has since reversed himself and claimed that he made the whole thing up in an effort to make himself appear influential.
Lucas did not record the Frazier audio files himself, we’re told, but sources at the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) have confirmed that he is the one who provided the recordings to the agency sometime this spring (perhaps as early as March or April). These sources claim that SLED has been actively following up on the intelligence obtained from the tapes ever since – working in concert with the U.S. Department of Justice.
S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley’s office was also provided with copies – although it remains to be seen what role the former Lexington lawmaker has played in the investigation.
So … was the transmission of the Frazier audio recordings the first time that Lucas attempted to alert law enforcement to the activities of the “Lexington Ring?”
Apparently not. Sometime within the last few years, Lucas is said to have drafted an eight page sworn statement detailing the group’s activities from 2002-2009. In fact we obtained a copy of this statement from one of our law enforcement sources.
In this excerpt from the statement, Lucas outlines Knotts and Metts’ alleged involvement in a video poker “test case” that he heard in the fall of 2003 in his capacity as a magistrate …
In August or early September 2003, Jakie Knotts and Sheriff James Metts of Lexington County approached me and stated that they wanted to have a case tested to see if it would hold up legally. Such cases are called Test Cases. This “Test Case” that Jakie and the Sheriff wanted me to hear was a video poker case (State vs. Charles E. Bishop). I was told by Jakie that the owner of the video poker machine would be represented by attorney Jake Moore’s law firm.
On September 12, 2003, I heard this “Test Case” at the Oak Grove Magistrate’s Office in which, at the time, was Sergeant David Arnold with the Lexington County Sheriffs Department prosecuting the case. After hearing the case, I ruled that I was not satisfied that the video machine, which was called South Carolina Fruit Holder, was a violation of seizure & destruction laws or a violation to posses this machine. This decision was made on the testimony giving in the case, which Sergeant David Arnold asked no questions and presented a case where I was left with no other choice but to rule in favor of the machine.
Shortly after I made this ruling, several individuals from the Video Poker Industry came to my office to obtain copies of the order I signed in this case preventing law enforcement from seizing these machines.
Within two weeks, though, Lucas found himself facing pressure from then-S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster. At this point he flip-flopped and issued a ruling against the machines. According to Lucas’ statement, “Jakie became very upset” upon learning of this decision – and Sheriff Metts attempted to set up a meeting with him to discuss it.
Not long after that, Lucas recalls taking a car ride with Knotts in which he discussed a possible USDOJ probe of the “Lexington Ring …”
In the summer of 2005, Danny Frazier told Jakie that the F.B.I. was asking him questions about Jakie’s involvement with the video poker case that I hear(d) in 2003. Jakie then met with me and Danny for lunch. After lunch, Jakie ask me to ride with him that he would take me back to my office. During this ride, Jakie asked me if the F.B.1. had contacted me and I told him no that they had not. However, this was not true, I had spoken to F.B.I. Agent Ron Grossi but I was not going to let Jakie know that I had in order to protect the F.B.I.’s investigation and myself from Jakie’s ways of getting even with people …
… I later found out that Jakie had called F.B.1. Agent Grossi and confronted him about his investigation. To my knowledge after that, the investigation was dropped.
Just like that, huh?
Anyway, then there’s this especially saucy excerpt … which details an alleged party attended by Knotts, Frazier and numerous state and local law enforcement officers …
In October or November of 2003, I was asked by Danny Frazier and Jakie Knotts to ride off with them to go to a party somewhere around Orangeburg South Carolina. Once we got close, Jakie had to make a call on cell phone to someone that I did not know so he could get complete directions to where we were to go. After he made the phone call, he told me and Danny that someone was coming to meet us and escort us to this party. After waiting a few minutes, we were met by an unmarked law enforcement vehicle, with what agency or officer met us I do not know, but he then escorted us down a secluded road that led to a white cabin type house that had donkeys in a field around this cabin. We then proceeded to walk in the cabin and then I was being introduced to many people. These people consisted of former Sheriff of Orangeburg, his brother, who was a Chief of Police, and others to include other law enforcement. I saw Rick McCloud, a retired S.L.E.D agent who was then working for Sheriff James Metts as one of his internal affairs investigators, who is a mutual friend of mine that Danny and Jakie also knew. There were two ladies at this party. Rick McCloud then told me that they were prostitutes and that he brought them to the party for anyone who wanted to enjoy themselves. When I asked Rick McCloud how did he know them, he said that he met them when working a case at S.L.E.D. and that they remained friends ever since. Rick then went around the room and explained to the men that if they decided to enjoy the ladies company to just pay the ladies after they were done. Once this was done, Jakie then took one of the prostitutes outside to Danny Frazier’s truck. After some time went by, Jakie returned back to the cabin completely naked with the female walking behind him. Then there were others that went outside with these prostitutes. Danny then took the prostitute that Jakie was with and went out to his truck. I remember that Rick McCloud had become worried about one of the prostitutes that was outside in a Ford Station wagon with an intoxicated man and asked me to go check on her for him. I did only to find the prostitute performing oral sex on this man in the car. I asked if everyone was ok, and both stated they were and then I went back in and informed Rick. After about spending two hours at this party, Jakie told me if we were done, for us to head back home. I remember us having to wait on Danny because he was in the bathroom in the cabin with the same prostitute that he was with earlier. Once we were back in the truck, I asked Danny Frazier what was he doing in the bathroom with the prostitute and he said that he was getting a blowjob from her. After discussing what happen on our way back home, Jakie found out how much Danny paid the prostitute and told him that he paid too much that he only gave her $40.00 for sex.
Obviously this isn’t the first time Knotts has been accused of enjoying the company of prostitutes. Earlier this year, supporters of Knotts’ 2012 S.C. Senate opponent – petition candidate Katrina Shealy – provided FITS with pictures in support of their assertion that Knotts roughed up a prostitute over a decade ago.
None of these reports – including the allegations contained in the Lucas statement – have been conclusively proven, though.
While these prostitute allegations against Knotts and Frazier are certainly salacious (and newsworthy), our real focus is on Lucas’ assertion that both Knotts and Sheriff Metts were involved in the video poker “test case” that he heard in 2003 while still serving as a magistrate. We’re also interested in Lucas’ assertion that there was an active FBI investigation into the “ring” back in 2005.
Both of those statements – if true – would represent a major escalation of this ongoing drama. They would also represent additional nails in Frazier’s ridiculous claim that he fabricated the whole video poker ring as an exercise in self-aggrandizement.
Frazier was asked by his colleagues on the Lexington, S.C. town council to resign his seat last week – but refused. He is currently on paid leave from the Lexington County Sheriff’s Office. No word yet on when – or if – SLED or the USDOJ will take any action against the ring.
JAMIE LUCAS STATEMENTS (.pdf)