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UPDATE | Second set of Irish Travelers plead guilty to conspiracy; bringing total to nearly 50 convicted

(WRDW)
Published: Aug. 30, 2016 at 12:58 PM EDT
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Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) -- An additional 24 Irish Traveler defendants from Murphy Village plead guilty to criminal conspiracy to commit racketeering.

According to S.C. Attorney General Beth Drake's office, the group all entered guilty pleas in a Columbia courtroom.

The accused defendants include John U. Carroll, Ann Carroll, Courtney Carroll, Jay G. Carroll, Mary C. Carroll, Mary Rita Carroll, Ralph Carroll, Mary Gorman, Tina Gorman, Thomas Martin Mack, Rachel McNally, Billy O'Hara, Jim O'Hara, Winnie O'Hara, Hugh Riley, Melissa Riley, Tracy Riley, Betty Sherlock, M. Lisa Carroll Sherlock, Michael P. Sherlock, Patricia Sherlock, Patrick Sherlock, Sandra Sherlock, and Ann F. Sherlock.

Federal Judge J. Michelle Childs accepted their pleas and will impose sentences after she has reviewed the presentence reports prepared by the U.S. Probation Office.

All 24 were a part of multiple criminal activities including mail and wire fraud, lying on loan applications, and scamming government benefits like food stamps and Medicaid.

This is the second group of travelers to take a guilty plea this year, bringing the total to nearly 50 travelers convicted.

The first group pleaded guilty to racketeering in a similar scheme involving rolling back odometers when trading or selling their vehicles.

The federal investigation has been going on for years involving multiple local, state, and federal agencies.

Each defendant faces up to five years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.


Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Rose Smith, who was indicted for fraudulently obtaining life insurance, has posted her plea agreement.

Harry Smith pleaded guilty a few days ago.

The Smiths are two travelers accused in a racketeering scheme at Murphy Village in North Augusta back in April 2016.


Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) -- After Harry and Rose Smith were indicted for fraudulently obtaining life insurance, at least one of them has pleaded guilty.

Harry Smith pleaded guilty. As for Rose Smith, there is no update on her.

The Smiths are two travelers accused in a racketeering scheme at Murphy Village in North Augusta back in April 2016.


Monday, Aug. 28, 2017

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) -- One more Irish Traveler has entered a guilty plea in federal court in Columbia.

This time, Rachel McNalley has pleaded guilty.

Close to dozen other travelers in February pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit racketeering or RICO.


Friday, Aug. 4, 2017

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Two Irish travelers who have been indicted for fraudulently obtaining life insurance from two former employees will have a pre-trial conference on Aug. 30, 2017.

The pre-trial conference for Harry Smith and Rose Smith will be 11 a.m. in the U.S. District Courthouse, courtroom #3, 901 Richland Street, Columbia S.C.

A grand jury indicted Harry Smith and Rose Smith, and granted a $25 thousand bond.

The Smiths are two travelers accused in a racketeering scheme at Murphy Village in North Augusta back in April 2016.


Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017

AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) -- 21 Irish Travelers have entered guilty pleas in federal court in Columbia.

The travelers pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit racketeering or RICO. United States District Judge J. Michelle Childs of Columbia accepted the guilty pleas and will impose sentences after she has reviewed the pre-sentence reports which will be prepared by the U.S. Probation Office.

Hannah Carroll, Rose M. Mulholland, Kim Mulholland, Caroline Sherlock, Catherine Carroll, Anthony Carroll, Johnny M. Sherlock, Mary Rita Sherlock, Jimmy Gorman, Leslie Gorman, Leslie Ann Sherlock, Jimmy J. Carroll, Mary Costello, Mary Gorman Carroll, Renee Carroll, Rose S. Mulholland, Susan Sherlock, Tommy Sherlock, William Carroll, and Johnny Mack, all of North Augusta, South Carolina, as well as Angela Askew, of Augusta, Georgia agreed to the deal on Tuesday.

Leonard New was not in court Tuesday. Jimmy Carroll, Renee Carroll , Leslie Ann Sherlock and Catherine Carroll signed cooperation clauses, according to our reporter Christie Ethridge who was in the courtroom Tuesday. A cooperation clause means they have to be honest about their own criminality before the government will use them to incriminate someone else.

Evidence presented at the change of plea hearing established that the defendants and others agreed, that a criminal enterprise operated in and around North Augusta, South Carolina.

This criminal enterprise consists of both residents of an insular group known as Travelers, as well as outsiders that helped those residents. The Travelers live in a defined geographic location of North Augusta that is commonly known as Murphy Village.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Alphonso Norris stated: “Today’s pleas go a long way in dismantling a criminal organization that has affected citizens in several states. This was made possible with the cooperation of our federal, state and local partners.”

The maximum penalty for Conspiracy to Commit Racketeering is imprisonment for 20 years and/or a fine of $250 thousand.

The case was investigated by agents of the FBI, the United States Marshals Service, IRS Criminal Investigations, the USDA Office of Inspector General-Investigations, the Postal Inspector’s Office, the South Carolina Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Unit, the Second Circuit Solicitor’s Office, Aiken County Sheriff’s Office and South Carolina Department of Social Services. Assistant United States Attorneys Jim May and Jay Richardson of Columbia and Rhett Dehart of Charleston are prosecuting the case.

11:46 a.m.

AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) -- All 22 Irish Travelers from Murphy Village are headed to federal court in Columbia on Tuesday, where they are expected to take plea deals in a racketeering scheme.

Three sets of hearings are being held, the first one was held at 10 a.m. where seven of the 22 changed their pleas to guilty and accepted their plea deals.

Assistant US Attorney Jim May says there is "endemic fraud" in the Irish Traveler organization with a "significant pattern of criminality."

May said they are residents of an insular group whose lifestyle is largely funded by racketeering and they use outsiders such as car salesmen, insurance representatives, and tax preparers.

According to our reporter in the courtroom, the first hearing focused a lot on how the government went to a lot of trouble to find the amount lost individually instead of holding the travelers accountable for the whole enterprise, which would be much more severe. Due to this, each one of their sentences could be different.

According to U.S. Attorney Jim May, any time someone is indicted, a plea of "not guilty" is entered into the record. Since the travelers are taking plea deals, they need to change their pleas to "guilty".

At the change of plea hearing, the Irish Travelers will be briefed on what rights they're giving up as part of the plea deal. U.S. Attorney Jim May will recite a factual basis to sustain the guilty verdict.

Sentencing hearings will be set for a later date. Sentencing has to be at least 60 days later.


Friday, Feb. 17, 2017

AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The 22 Irish Travelers that entered plea deals will have to appear in court for change of plea hearings.

The hearings will be on Feb. 28. According to U.S. Attorney Jim May, any time someone is indicted, a plea of "not guilty" is entered into the record. Since the travelers are taking plea deals, they need to change their pleas to "guilty".

At the change of plea hearing, the Irish Travelers will be briefed on what rights they're giving up as part of the plea deal. U.S. Attorney Jim May will recite a factual basis to sustain the guilty verdict.

Sentencing hearings will be set for a later date. Sentencing has to be at least 60 days later.


News 12 NBC 26 / Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017

AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) -- All 22 Irish Travelers accused in a racketeering scheme out of Murphy Village have entered plea agreements.

Travelers are known for being a very private group, but there have been two very public and very separate investigations: the DSS investigation and this racketeering case. The plea deals center solely around the people involved in the racketeering.

Twenty-two people were indicted on racketeering and fraud charges stemming from an operation out of Murphy Village in North Augusta in August. With the plea agreements they're admitting to using fraud to get their hands on luxury cars, homes, food stamps, and life insurance benefits. Also, since it's a RICO case, the guilty pleas mean they admit the Irish Travelers are a criminal enterprise.

Mary Rita Sherlock, Hannah Carroll, Rose M. Mulholland, Kim Mulholland, Caroline Sherlock, Catherine Carroll, Anthony Carroll, Johnny M. Sherlock, Leslie Ann Sherlock, Jimmy J. Carroll, Mary Costello, Mary Gorman Carroll, Jimmy Gorman, Leslie C. Gorman, Renee Carroll, Rose S. Mulholland, Susan Sherlock, Tommy Sherlock, William Caroll, Johnny Mack, and Leonard New and Angela Askew from Augusta entered plea agreements this week.

The bones of the agreements are the same. They will all plead guilty to the first county of the indictment "conspiracy to commit racketeering," get three years of supervised release, and pay 100 dollars per felony count. They will also face some jail time, which a judge will decide.

"Even though it says 20 years as a maximum, no one is even going to be close to that," attorney Jack Swerling said.

Columbia attorney Jack Swerling represents Rose M. Mulholland, just one of the twenty-two. He says she's always maintained she didn't know her actions were a criminal act, but the law says that's not an excuse, so this plea deal was the next best thing.

"I don't think anybody is ever happy about having to plead guilty, but I think that we've come to the point where she and the others think this is their best opportunity," Swerling said.

The details of the deal are a little different for each person. The plea deal for Rose M. Mulholland says she can pay $75,000 and keep her two properties on Kerry Court, but the deal with Anthony and Catherine Carroll says they will pay $25,000 and release any interest in their cars. Another agreement says Jimmy J. Carroll and Leslie Sherlock will pay $25,000 and that will satisfy any forfeiture or restitution obligations, making no mention of property or vehicles.

You may remember video News 12 NBC 26 shot as federal agents towed several of their luxury cars away.

The other big difference is the cooperation clause. Some agreed to "provide full, complete, and truthful information about all criminal activities" and even possibly testify in the future. Swerling says his client did not.

"Some are willing to do that, and she was not. She was not willing to be a witness in the case," he said.

The penalty for this offense is up to 20 years imprisonment, a fine of up to $250 thousand, three years of supervised release and a special assessment of $100. Because they agreed to plea deals, there will be no jury involved. A judge will decide everything, and he will sentence each person based on federal guidelines.

The max penalty of 20 years is unlikely because attorneys say financial crimes in federal court, especially for people who have no criminal history, typically don't come with penalties like that.

The indictment came on Wednesday, Aug. 17. On Tuesday, Aug. 30, nineteen of the Irish Travelers were arraigned on not guilty pleas in a federal courthouse in Columbia.


Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Two additional Irish Travelers have been indicted for fraudulently obtaining life insurance from two former employees, according to court officials.

A grand jury has indicted Harry and Rose Smith. Both were granted a $25 thousand bond. Their next hearing is scheduled for Feb. 14 at 2:30 p.m. in Columbia, S.C.

The Smiths are two additional Irish Travelers accused in a racketeering scheme out Murphy Village in North Augusta back in April of 2016, bringing the total number accused to 24.


Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The trial for all 22 Irish Travelers accused in a racketeering scheme out of Murphy Village has been pushed back to April.

From a court document filed on Thursday, the state moved to have the case heard in the April term of court.

Those accused were indicted on racketeering and fraud charges stemming from an operation out of Murphy Village in North Augusta on Wednesday, Aug. 17. On Tuesday, Aug. 30, nineteen of the Irish travelers were arraigned on not guilty pleas in a federal courthouse in Columbia.


Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) -- New dates have been set in the trial for all 22 Irish Travelers accused in a racketeering scheme out of Murphy Village.

A pre-trial conference will be held on Tuesday, January 3, at 10 a.m. in the U.S. District Courthouse in Columbia.

A plea hearing for any defendant who wishes to enter a guilty plea will be held immediately following the pre-trial conference. Defendants who wish to enter the guilty plea will have to do so by 12 noon on Monday, January 2.

Jury selection will begin in the case on Wednesday, January 4 at 9:30 a.m. in Columbia.

Those accused were indicted on racketeering and fraud charges stemming from an operation out of Murphy Village in North Augusta on Wednesday, Aug. 17. On Tuesday, Aug. 30, nineteen of the Irish travelers were arraigned on not guilty pleas in a federal courthouse in Columbia.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) -- All 22 Irish Travelers accused in a racketeering scheme out of Murphy Village have asked for more time, and a judge has granted the continuance.

Pre-trial activities were scheduled to start Wednesday, and jury selection was scheduled to take place on December 8. On Tuesday, the court said that the judge presiding ordered the case be continued until the January 2017 term.

Those accused were indicted on racketeering and fraud charges stemming from an operation out of Murphy Village in North Augusta on Wednesday, Aug. 17. On Tuesday, Aug. 30, nineteen of the Irish travelers were arraigned on not guilty pleas in a federal courthouse in Columbia.


Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Five Irish Travelers accused in a racketeering scheme out of Murphy Village have filed requests to delay their case until the February term, court officials said.

The delays would allow the five defendants more time to go through materials and documents. There has not been a ruling from the court on the extension.


Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Dates have been set in the case of 22 Irish Travelers accused in a racketeering scheme.

According to the court, a pre-trial hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 30 at 10 a.m. and jury selection will take place on Thursday, Dec. 8 at 9:30 a.m.

There will be a plea hearing immediately following the pre-trial hearing in case anyone of the accused would like to change their pleas to guilty.

Twenty-two people were indicted on racketeering and fraud charges stemming from an operation out of Murphy Village in North Augusta on Wednesday, Aug. 17. On Tuesday, Aug. 30, nineteen of the Irish travelers were arraigned on not guilty pleas in a federal courthouse in Columbia.


Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The next time Irish travelers accused in a racketeering scheme will appear in court will be the end of September.

On Sept. 29, all 22 suspects are set for a pretrial conference and/or jury selection at the U.S. District Courthouse in Columbia at 10 a.m. Any plea agreements must be filed by noon on the business day before the pretrial conference. All cases in which a guilty plea is not entered are scheduled for jury selection on Oct. 12 at 9:30 a.m.

Twenty-two people were indicted on racketeering and fraud charges stemming from an operation out of Murphy Village in North Augusta on Wednesday, Aug. 17. On Tuesday, Aug. 30, nineteen of the Irish travelers were arraigned on not guilty pleas in a federal courthouse in Columbia.


News 12 NBC 26 / Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Nineteen Irish travelers out of Murphy Village were arraigned on not guilty pleas in a federal courthouse in Columbia Tuesday morning.

It was the first look at 19 of the people connected to this case. Three were not present. Many of them covered their faces as they left the federal courthouse in Columbia.

Defense attorney Jack Swerling says many in the group had no idea this was coming. He represents Rose M. Mulholland.

"They're upset. They didn't know this was coming, and they're going to have to face it," Swerling said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim May is prosecuting the case. The indictment claims they're running a criminal organization of fraud out of North Augusta's Murphy Village. Tuesday's hearing is the first step in what's going to be a very complicated and paper-heavy case.

"There's insurance fraud, there's money laundering, there's bank fraud. There's about six or seven different areas of the law that you're talking about were violated, so what you're going to have is a very paper intensive case," Swerling said. "I wouldn't be surprised to see 40,000 to 50,000 pages of materials that are going to be disseminated in this case because anytime you're dealing with insurance companies or you're dealing with banking, you're going to have an enormous amount of paperwork."

Tuesday the 19 people present all entered not guilty pleas. Five were ordered GPS monitoring as they travel for work. The rest were restricted to South Carolina and Georgia only.

"She's upset as well as all of them. A lot of them are family. A lot of them are related to each other, so they're going through it together," Swerling said.

Some wonder if the government's RICO charges are a little overreaching, but right now only one side can see all the evidence.

"We see what's in the indictment and what's being alleged, but we really haven't seen any of the meat of the case yet," he said. "There's been some government officials down in the village talking to people, so I think it's just a question of whether you knew you were involved or not or whether you were being accused of something or not, and I think most people probably did not realize that they were being looked at as committing some sort of criminal offense."

Swerling has an idea about how the government got what they needed, though.

"It seems like there was somebody who was a confidential informant. That's just my guess from, you know, 40 years of experience," he said.

Swerling confirms all the cars have been physically taken from them. He says the government is in the process of taking the houses, too. He said they're trying to work out a deal for them to keep the cars and stay in their houses at least for the duration of the proceedings.


Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Nineteen Irish travelers out of Murphy Village were arraigned on not guilty pleas in a federal courthouse in Columbia Tuesday morning.

Three of the travelers that were indicted earlier this month were not present. Twenty-two people were indicted on racketeering and fraud charges stemming from an operation out of Murphy Village in North Augusta on Wednesday, Aug. 17.

Five men accused in the case will be monitored with a GPS tracker as they travel for work. The rest will only be allowed in Georgia and South Carolina. All of the people indicted are set to be released on a $25 thousand unsecured bond with a warning to stay out of trouble and appear in court when they're needed.

The long-term, multi-agency federal investigation spanned at least five years and details schemes to get life insurance benefits, food stamps, and Medicaid funds among others.

In all, 45 counts of racketeering fill the 18-page indictment carried out by what the U.S. Attorney's office is calling a "criminal organization that operates in Murphy Village." They refer to them as "Travelers," defined as a "self-identified group of itinerant laborers and salesmen who offer services door to door."

On Thursday, federal agents were spotted in Aiken County overseeing property connected to a racketeering scheme get hauled away. A Wal-Mart parking lot on Edgefield Road turned into an impound lot as at least two luxury cars connected to the Murphy Village investigation got strapped to a tow truck and hauled away.

From North Augusta, Hannah Carroll, Rose M. Mulholland, Kim Mulholland, Caroline Sherlock, Catherine Carroll, Anthony Carroll, Johnny M. Sherlock, Mary Rita Sherlock, Leslie Ann Sherlock, Jimmy J. Carroll, Mary Costello, Mary Gorman Carroll, Jimmy Gorman, Leslie C. Gorman, Renee Carroll, Rose S. Mulholland, Susan Sherlock, Tommy Sherlock, Willam Caroll, Johnny Mack, and Leonard New and Angela Askew, from Augusta were indicted.

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