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Published:June 29th, 2006 03:55 EST

Public Corruption Task Force Taking Aim

By SOP newswire

Columbia, S.C. - Special Agent in Charge, Brian D. Lamkin, Columbia Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced today the formation of a Public Corruption Task Force. Joining SAC Lamkin at this announcement were representatives from the founding members of South Carolina's first Public Corruption Task Force, including, United States Attorney Reginald I. Lloyd, District of South Carolina, Chief Robert M. Stewart, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), Special Agent in Charge, Charles Hunter, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division and Henry McMaster, South Carolina Attorney General.

Public corruption is a betrayal of the public's trust resulting in an erosion of public confidence. While the vast majority of public officials - both elected and appointed - are honest in their work and committed to serving their fellow citizens, a small percentage abuse the public trust. The Public Corruption Task Force is a joint effort of federal and state agencies designed to aggressively investigate and successfully prosecute allegations of public corruption.

While the FBI's top priority remains its national security program, the top criminal investigative priority is public corruption. SAC Lamkin acknowledged that one of the lessons learned from the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, was the need to share investigative resources and expertise to more effectively combat crime.

Many investigations are initiated based on tips from individuals who encounter corruption. Law enforcement appreciates those who come forward to report corruption. Recently, the FBI created a weblink,, that is designed to enable the public to send information about corruption to the FBI. We encourage all citizens to report corruption by contacting the Public Corruption Task Force at (803) 551-4200, through the national weblink, or by calling SLED directly at (803) 737-9000.

In connection with the operation of the Public Corruption Task Force, United States Attorney Reginald I. Lloyd and Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, United States Department of Justice, Alice S. Fisher, announced today that John H. Rickenbacker, age 54, chairman of the Orangeburg County Council, was charged in a two-count Indictment with Bribery Concerning Programs Receiving Federal Funds and with Extortion under Color of Official Right.

The indictment charges that Rickenbacker, who was elected to the Orangeburg County Council and later succeeded to the position of Chairman of the Council, solicited and received bribes totaling $50,000 between December 2005 and May 2006. According to the indictment, the payments were made by an undercover FBI agent posing as a consultant to a company interested in acquiring the Regional Medical Center of Orangeburg and Calhoun Counties. In exchange for the money, the indictment charges that Rickenbacker agreed to provide the undercover FBI agent with a copy of a valuation report analyzing the financial condition of the hospital. The report was being prepared at the request of the Orangeburg County Council and would assist the company as it prepared to bid on the hospital. According to the indictment, Rickenbacker also indicated he would provide the necessary political support to get the sale approved by the Orangeburg County Council.

The maximum penalty John H. Rickenbacker could receive on each bribery count is a fine of $250,000 and/or imprisonment of 10 years. The maximum penalty for each extortion count is a fine of $250,000 and/or imprisonment for 20 years.

The case was investigated by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division, and has been assigned to Assistant United States Attorney Winston D. Holliday, Jr., of the Columbia United States Attorney’s Office for prosecution. The case is being prosecuted jointly by Trial Attorney Eileen Gleason of the Criminal Division, United States Department of Justice, Public Integrity Section, headed by Acting Chief Andrew Lourie.

All charges in the Indictment are merely accusations and all defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.