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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Friday, June 9, 2006

THREE ROBESON COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPUTIES
INDICTED ON RACKETEERING CHARGES

LUMBERTON - United States Attorney Frank D. Whitney, Special Agent in Charge Charles Hunter, Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation Division, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation Director Robin P. Pendergraft, and District Attorney L. Johnson Britt, Jr., North Carolina Judicial District 16-B, announced that after a three and one-half year long investigation, “Operation Tarnished Badge”, a federal grand jury sitting in the Eastern District of North Carolina returned a true Bill of Indictment against former Robeson County Sheriff Deputies ROGER HUGH TAYLOR, 39, of 100 Tartan Road, Lumberton, N. C.; CHARLES THOMAS STRICKLAND, 39, of 219 Oakwood Heights, Lumberton, N. C.; and STEVEN RAY LOVIN, 36, of 2030 Tar Heel Road, Lumberton, N. C. The Indictment charges one count of racketeering (Title 18, United States Code, Section 1962(c)); one count of racketeering conspiracy (Title 18, United States Code, Section 1962(d)); six counts of theft from programs receiving federal funds (Title 18, United States Code, Section 666); one count of conspiracy to commit theft from programs receiving federal funds (Title 18, United States Code, Section 371); and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering (Title 18, United States Code, Section 1956(h)).

The Indictment alleges that from 1995 to 2004, while employed as deputies with the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office, TAYLOR, STRICKLAND, and LOVIN were involved in numerous illegal acts to include arson, assault, theft of public funds, distribution of controlled substances and money laundering. According to the Indictment, these illegal activities financially enriched the three defendants and increased their power and influence within the community.

The Indictment specifically alleges that TAYLOR, STRICKLAND and LOVIN were directly involved in twelve individual racketeering acts to include the arson of two residences within Robeson County on March 14, 1997 (Racketeering Act One), and July 1, 1998 (Racketeering Act Eight), and the arson of a business located within Robeson County on July 8, 1998 (Racketeering Act Nine). Other racketeering acts include providing confidential informants working for the Drug Enforcement Division of the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office with marijuana, powder cocaine or crack cocaine on six separate occasions (Racketeering Acts Two, Three, Four, Five, Six and Seven); the use of marijuana as payment for committing arson (Racketeering Act Nine); the purchase of a Harley Davidson motorcycle with funds derived from illegal activities (Racketeering Act Ten); and theft, in the amount of approximately $11,000, from an individual by assault (Racketeering Act Eleven).

Counts Three through Eight allege that LOVIN fraudulently obtained federal funds in the custody and control of the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office, and Count Nine alleges he conspired to commit these thefts. And finally, Count Ten of the Indictment alleges that LOVIN, knowingly, intentionally and unlawfully conspired to commit money laundering offenses with proceeds of illegal activity. Additionally, the Indictment seeks forfeiture of property related to these alleged criminal acts, including a 2002 Harley Davidson and a 2002 Ford F250.

U.S. Attorney Whitney stated: “Nothing jeopardizes our personal safety or undermines the enforcement of the law more than illegal conduct of sworn law enforcement officers. This indictment is the result of a focused commitment by federal, state and local government to ensure the integrity of those charged with upholding our law.”

N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper stated: “This investigation has stopped a series of crimes that corrupted the very people who were sworn to enforce our laws. Unfortunately corruption knows no boundaries, and can infect every profession. As the case continues, we hope that the community will be able to return its trust to the true law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line every day.”

SBI Director Robin P. Pendergraft said: “This complex investigation required the determined efforts of federal, state and local authorities. The people of Robeson County deserve officers in whom they can have faith. The State Bureau of Investigation is committed to pursuing justice in these cases and all others where corruption invades the public workplace.”

Charles Hunter, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation Division, stated: “This investigation highlights what occurs when law enforcement agencies coordinate their efforts. IRS-Criminal Investigation Division will continue to provide financial expertise to these investigations. Money laundering results when the fruits of the crime are inserted into legitimate commerce. IRS-CI will continue to make sure the criminals do not benefit from their crimes. Everyone benefits when we work together.”

Investigation of the case was conducted by the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation Division and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorneys J. Frank Bradsher, Wes Camden, and Eric Evenson are handling the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The Racketeering Section of the Criminal Division of the United States Department of Justice also participated in this matter.

An Indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the Government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. A trial date has not yet been set.

 

News releases are available on the U. S. Attorney’s web page at www.usdoj.gov/usao/nce within 48 hours of release.

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