Suspended Chester county, South Carolina sheriff Alex “Big A” Underwood was hit with additional federal charges this week – adding to the multi-count indictment leveled against him back in the spring. This time, federal prosecutors claim Underwood misappropriated county tax dollars to subsidize personal and family travel, dodged employment taxes on payments to off-duty deputies and forced on-duty deputies to do manual labor on his property.
As with the first round of indictments, two of Underwood’s subordinates – former chief deputy Robert Sprouse and ex-lieutenant Johnny Ricardo Neal, Jr. – were also indicted on Thursday for allegedly participating in a “scheme and artifice to defraud and obtain money and property by means of false pretenses.”
All three were also accused of “using their positions as law enforcement officers to intimidate others and obscure their own conduct.”
They are scheduled to appear in federal court in Columbia, S.C. on December 3 to answer to these charges.
On May 7, 2019, Underwood, Sprouse and Neal were indicted in connection with an alleged conspiracy to cover up an unlawful arrest and the excessive use of force against a detained individual – Kevin Simpson.
Underwood was automatically suspended from office seven months ago as a result of the initial federal indictments. South Carolina governor Henry McMaster appointed Donald “Max” Dorsey – a captain in the narcotics division of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) – to fill the position until such time as “Underwood is acquitted, convicted, the indictment is otherwise disposed of, or until a sheriff is elected and qualifies in the next general election.”
McMaster has had to appoint three interim sheriffs this year in response to indictments – including one just yesterday.
(Click to view)
(Via: Chester County Sheriff’s Office)
Underwood’s indictment and suspension from office did not catch our readers off-guard.
In mid-March of this year, we exclusively reported that Underwood was at the heart of a federal investigation – one quickly approaching a point of “critical mass.” After our story ran, Underwood was referenced by reporters Tony Bartelme and Joseph Cranney ofThe (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier in connection with a series on shady sheriffs.
“Underwood’s lavish spending fits squarely into a deeper story about misbehaving sheriffs,” Bartelme and Cranney noted, referring to his office as a “portrait of excess.”
A week before the first round of indictments were handed down, a joint federal-state raid on the Chester County, S.C. sheriff’s office was effectuated – and the day before the indictments were handed down this news outlet exclusively reported that cell phones from Underwood and his subordinates were seized during that raid.
Simpson was arrested and allegedly accosted by Underwood and his subordinates on November 18, 2018 after he used his cell phone “to live-stream … law enforcement activity.”
According to federal prosecutors, Simpson was allegedly knocked to the ground while restrained in handcuffs, “injuring (his) head and elbow.” Underwood, Sprouse and Neal were also accused of illegally obtaining evidence and fabricating statements in official incident reports related to Simpson’s arrest and illegal detention – and of tampering with evidence and making false statements to agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) when questioned about their actions.
Simpson and his family have filed a civil suit against the county.
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