News and Press Releases

Remaining Eight Members of Gaffney Mail Theft Ring Plead Guilty

March 5, 2013

Contact Person: Bill Watkins (864) 282-2100

Columbia, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Bill Nettles stated today that eight defendants plead guilty today in federal court in Greenville, to conspiracy to commit mail theft, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371. Senior United States District Judge Henry M. Herlong of Greenville accepted the pleas and will impose sentence after he has reviewed the presentence report which will be prepared by the U.S. Probation Office. The defendants who pled are: Joshua P. Hodge, age 32, of Woodruff; Nicki N. Heffner-Minnix, age 28, of Gaffney; Joy Spencer, age 31, of Gaffney; David L. Ward, age 37, of Gaffney; Crystal Chesnee, age 48, of Gaffney, Susan B. Abernathy, age 29, of Gaffney; Kevin M. Grissom, age 30, of Gaffney; and Brandon S. Hammett, age 27, of Spartanburg. This makes a total of 20 defendants that have pled guilty to the conspiracy charges.

Evidence presented at the change of plea hearing established that this was a conspiracy that operated in the upstate of South Carolina from May 2011 through December 2012. The participants stole mail, altered checks stolen from the mail, and made counterfeit checks based on personal information obtained from the stolen mail. Often, individuals were recruited to open bank accounts into which counterfeit checks were deposited and from where funds were withdrawn before the fraud could be detected. The conspiracy did utilize some stolen identification documents when passing checks, but often individuals used their actual government issued identification documents when cashing checks at various locations. According to law enforcement, actual losses attributed to the mail theft and check cashing activities of the conspiracy exceeded $900,000. Hundreds of residents had their mail stolen during the months that the conspiracy was in operation. Much of the money obtained by the conspirators was used to purchase methamphetamine, the drug of choice of many of the defendants participating in the conspiracy.

Mr. Nettles stated the maximum penalty the defendants can receive is a fine of $250,000 and/or imprisonment for 5 years, plus a special assessment of $100.

The case was investigated by agents of the United States Postal Inspection S ervice, the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office, and the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Bill Watkins of the Greenville office handled the case.


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