A defendant with alleged ties to a prominent Lowcountry South Carolina gang – and ties to criminal investigations involving convicted killer Alex Murdaugh – pleaded guilty today in Kershaw County in front of circuit court judge Clifton Newman.
Jerry Rivers, 40, of Walterboro, S.C., was indicted on a single count of obstruction of justice when he allegedly swiped a cell phone belonging to Spencer Roberts from a gambling den where members of law enforcement were executing a search warrant in August 2022. The obstruction charge against Rivers is the only one originating from that search. The phone was never recovered.
Spencer Roberts was subsequently indicted – but not for anything related to the raid. Instead, he was indicted on charges stemming from fraudulent loans and unemployment benefits he received from federal and state Covid-19 assistance programs.
He is scheduled to stand trial in December of this year in Colleton County.
As for Rivers, in November 2022 a state grand jury returned a thirteen-count indictment (.pdf) against him for similar fraudulent activity related to the application for and receipt of funds from federal and state programs intended to help businesses and individuals survive the Covid-19 crisis. About a week before Murdaugh’s murder trial, on January 17, 2023, Rivers was arrested and has been incarcerated at the Alvin S. Glenn detention center ever since.
According to information provided during his plea hearing, Rivers began selling oxycodone pills to Murdaugh’s alleged drug dealer/ check casher Curtis “Eddie” Smith – who told him he was buying them for a “cousin” during Covid-19.
Smith paid Rivers $88,000 in checks for the drugs – in addition to cash – through September 2021.
After Murdaugh’s arrest, Rivers and unnamed co-conspirators began looking for other means of income – allegedly finding it by applying for fraudulent car loans in the name of fake dealerships. According to prosecutors, over $120,000 was fraudulently obtained utilizing this scheme.
In addition to the fake dealerships, Rivers also fraudulently obtained $41,000 via Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) unemployment loans by using a fictional salon business. Assistant S.C. attorney general Johnny James Jr. noted during the hearing that Rivers didn’t have a cosmetology license.
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Rivers admitted guilt to all of the charges filed by the attorney general’s office. James indicated the plea agreement with Rivers is based on his cooperation in ongoing investigations into frauds by co-conspirators – with the state recommending a prison sentence of anywhere between five and twenty years.
During the discussion of bond, prosecutors noted Rivers had a history of cocaine and marijuana possession and distribution arrests – resulting in convictions, fines, imprisonment and probation which date back to 2001. Despite his history, Rivers told the court during his nine months in jail he received treatment and has remained clean. He told the court his previous bonds totaling $300,000 were so high his family wasn’t able to pay and asked the Court for new chance to prove himself.
After reading a letter from a member of Rivers’ family supporting bond, judge Newman ordered bond set at $150,000 and allowed for his pre-sentence release – all conditional upon Rivers’ acceptance into a residential drug rehabilitation and work program.
As this news outlet previously reported, Rivers has emerged as a mysterious figure in this still-unfolding story. Several months ago, the website Gangster Report published an article claiming he was “connected to the Walterboro Cowboys drug crew” – specifically referencing his relation to Khiry “K-Blacka” Broughton, whom the article described as the “Cowboys’ boss.”
The article went on to claim that Rivers was charged with “overseeing security at Murdaugh’s gambling den” on the Moselle property. That report has been downplayed by our law enforcement sources, but Rivers was clearly connected to such activity vis-à-vis his alleged role with the Cowboys.
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According to a Colleton County incident report (.pdf), Rivers was arrested and charged with five counts of “unlawful games and betting” following a series of raids in and around Walterboro on August 10, 2022 led by agents of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED).
Those charges are not posted to the public index, however, and state prosecutors have yet to unseal any grand jury indictments related to them.
According to Gangster Report, the device sought by authorities on August 10, 2022 contained “communications with Murdaugh and Murdaugh associates.” Several of those communications were related to gambling activity, we are told.
Items seized during the August 10, 2022 raids included “evidence of illegal gambling,” but additional information about this “seized contraband” was not available from local authorities.
As this news outlet reported back in March, a statewide grand jury is continuing to investigate what remains of Murdaugh’s erstwhile empire – which obviously includes multiple investigatory threads just waiting to be pulled. Among those threads are the drug charges against Murdaugh and his co-conspirators – and allegations of institutional corruption in the Lowcountry.
Allegations tied to potentially larger drug smuggling operations also loom in proximity to the now-fallen “House of Murdaugh,” a legal dynasty which ran the S.C. fourteenth judicial circuit like a fiefdom for more than a century prior to its spectacular unraveling over the last four years.
“The Lowcountry as we know it was built on the drug trade,” one veteran Beaufort County law enforcement officer told our news outlet recently. “They built Hilton Head Island with cocaine money. You think the Murdaughs weren’t part of that?”
With Rivers pleading guilty and avoiding trial, information regarding where Murdaugh’s money went – as well as the accuracy of the claim presented by his defense team that it was spent on his $50,000-a-week drug habit – remains a mystery.
Count on this news outlet to keep digging …
ABOUT THE AUTHOR ...
Jenn Wood is FITSNews' incomparable research director. She's also the producer of the FITSFiles and Cheer Incorporated podcasts and leading expert on all things Murdaugh/ South Carolina justice. A former private investigator with a criminal justice degree, evildoers beware, Jenn Wood is far from your average journalist! A deep dive researcher with a passion for truth and a heart for victims, this mom of two is pretty much a superhero in FITSNews country. Did we mention she's married to a rocket scientist? (Lucky guy!) Got a story idea or a tip for Jenn? Email her at [email protected].
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