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#ProbeGate: IRS Involvement




Two-and-a-half months ago we filed a report addressing some of the allegations against suspended S.C. Rep. Jimmy Merrill – a report which also addressed some of the speculation surrounding his brother, Denver Merrill.

The former Merrill was indicted on multiple counts in December 2016 as part of #ProbeGate – an ongoing criminal investigation into alleged corruption in state government.  As it stands now, he’s facing more than six decades behind bars.

In discussing some of Merrill’s potential exposure as this investigation moves forward, we noted at the time “there may also be federal reporting and tax issues involved in the ongoing probe.”

It looks like that was an understatement …

Federal involvement in the investigation has ramped up considerably in the aftermath of the latest #ProbeGate indictment – in which suspended S.C. Senator John Courson stands accused of receiving kickbacks from his campaign account that were routed through the firm his neo-Confederate political consultant, Richard Quinn.

Specifically, we’re told agents of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) are pouring through a litany of transactions involving Quinn’s firm – as well as transactions related to a business he co-owned with another establishment “Republican” strategist, Bob McAlister.

“They are intimately involved,” a source close to the investigation told us of the IRS.

What are they looking for?

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(Via Travis Bell Photography)

As the indictments against Courson (above) alleged, Quinn’s firm cut checks to the sitting Senator – which he then endorsed and cashed.  All of the cashed checks disclosed so far were for less than $10,000 – which meant the transactions did not have to be reported to the IRS.

The one check disclosed so far from Quinn to Courson that exceeded this amount was for $32,000.  Courson deposited $23,000 of that amount and took the rest ($9,000) out in cash, according to prosecutors.

What gives?  Did Courson need this money?

It’s hard to imagine that being the case.  The 72-year-old lawmaker is a senior executive at Keenan Suggs Insurance, a firm that does big business with state government.

Whether he needed the money or not, though, it seems abundantly clear at this point that he took it.

Now the only question is whether other clients of “The Quinndom” had similar financial arrangements.  And whether these arrangements created unfulfilled tax obligations.

Quinn and his son – S.C. Rep. Rick Quinn – were both named in the still-secret pages of a 2013 investigatory report prepared by agents of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED).  In fact, their alleged “pay-to-play” activities appear to have drawn the attention of investigators during their questioning of Merrill.

More recently, the elder Quinn was also reportedly summoned to testify last month before a grand jury convened by special prosecutor David Pascoe.  Since then it’s been revealed his office was raided by SLED – which was executing a search warrant on behalf of Pascoe’s grand jury.

Pascoe has at least five SLED agents – and a forensic accountant – working full-time supplementing his office’s investigation.  It’s not clear yet what sort of federal assets have been brought to bear on the case, although the federal government under former U.S. attorney Bill Nettles was very much involved in this investigation in its early stages.

What happened to that involvement?  We’re not sure … but Nettles aborted hiring last fall by certain members of the House GOP Caucus (who at the time were thought to be under investigation) was not an encouraging sign.  Nor are reports we’ve heard indicating that Nettles’ office took nearly two years to turn over key financial records related to the case to Pascoe.

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