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#ProbeGate: Pension Fund Connection

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EXPANDED INVESTIGATION TOUCHES UPON CORRUPT “AMERICAN TIMBERLANDS” INVESTMENT …

A scandalous pension fund investment exposed by this website nearly five years ago has found its way into an ongoing investigation of public corruption at the S.C. State House, multiple sources close to the probe have confirmed to FITSNews.

The controversial investment – which routed $30 million of pension fund money to a company called American Timberlands – was made at the behest of Reynolds Williams, chairman of the woefully mismanaged S.C. Retirement System Investment Commission (SCRSIC).  That’s the panel responsible for the state’s ongoing pension fund debacle – which is already costing taxpayers and state employees big bucks (a disaster than’s going to get much worse before it gets better).

According to our 2012 report, Williams “aggressively pushed this timber deal only to abstain from voting on it at the last moment.”

Why didn’t he vote after shepherding this deal all the way through the process?  Because Williams’ Florence, S.C. law firm was raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars from the company receiving the money.  To have voted on it could have very well been illegal.

Nonetheless, Williams’ advocacy on behalf of American Timberlands was reported to the office of S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson.  Specifically, a letter was sent to Wilson from S.C. treasurer Curtis Loftis which accused the corrupt pension fund commissioner of “misleading his fellow commissioners about the true nature of his association with American Timberlands.”

What did Wilson do with this letter?  He referred it to the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) and the S.C. State Ethics Commission (SCSEC).

“When both entities have completed their reviews, we will then determine what, if any, prosecutorial action is warranted,” Wilson said at the time.

It’s not clear what these agencies uncovered, but no indictments were ever issued in the case.  No one was ever prosecuted.  Like so many other transparent scandals in South Carolina, nothing happened.

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What on earth does an aborted five-year-old investigation into a shady pension fund deal have to do with #ProbeGate, the ongoing investigation into legislative corruption being led by S.C. first circuit solicitor David Pascoe?

According to our sources, “one of (Pascoe’s) designees asked for the info on the American Timberlands deal from (Wilson’s) office.”

He got it, too … along with a ton of other case files.

“(It) was produced,” the source said, referring to a lengthy list of documents Pascoe reportedly requested from Wilson’s office – and the office of former S.C attorney general Henry McMaster.

Pascoe’s interest in these cases confirms our earlier reporting about his probe extending beyond just corrupt lawmakers to include “current and former statewide officials.”  More specifically, it would seem to indicate the rampant selective prosecution (and obstruction of other inquiries) emanating from the attorney general’s office in recent years is a part of his investigation.

It may even help explain why Wilson went to the mat last spring in an effort to shut Pascoe down – a battle he ultimately lost when the S.C. Supreme Court ruled that the special prosecutor’s investigation could proceed.

Pascoe has already handled the prosecution of former S.C. Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell – who resigned his office in October 2014 after pleading guilty to six ethics violations.  He is currently handling the prosecution of suspended S.C. Rep. Jimmy Merrill, who is facing more than sixty years in prison after being indicted on thirty ethics charges last month (with more charges possibly forthcoming).

We’re told another round of indictments is coming – perhaps as soon as this week.

Stay tuned …

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