Final 3 SC law officers snared by FBI in Mexican cartel sting sentenced to prison

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Three former Orangeburg County law officers caught in an FBI sting where federal agents pretended to be members of a Mexican drug-smuggling cartel have been sentenced to prison, according to court records.

The three are the last of six Orangeburg County law enforcement officers to be sentenced to prison in the FBI sting, dubbed “Operation Iceberg,” which also snared a security guard as well.

The security guard, James Tucker, has pleaded guilty to knowing about an illegal scheme and not informing law enforcement. He will be sentenced at a later time, said his attorney, Aimee Zmyroczek.

The highest-ranking officer charged in the sting was Lacrea Jenkins, police chief of Springfield, a small town about 15 miles west of Orangeburg and 35 miles southwest of Columbia. Jenkins was sentenced last year to five years in prison.

Last week in federal court in Columbia, U.S. Judge Joe Anderson sentenced these three to prison:

Carolyn Colter Franklin, 64, a former Orangeburg County deputy, got five years and one month in prison.

Allan Hunter, 52, a former officer with the Springfield police department, whom prosecutors have described in federal court as the “ringleader,” got five years and three months in prison.

Nathaniel Miller Shazier, III, 29, a former Orangeburg County deputy, got three years and 10 months in prison.

The three had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud earlier and had been awaiting sentencing. Franklin, Hunter, and Shazier’s sentences will be followed by 3 years of supervised release. There is no parole in the federal system.

“These sentences highlight that no one is above the law,” Acting U.S. Attorney Rhett DeHart said in a news release. “Anyone brazen enough to conspire with cartels to commit crimes, especially those placed in public trust, will be met with the full force of the federal government.”

In the conspiracy,which lasted from December 2018 to March 2019, the Orangeburg officers — wearing their uniforms and using marked county patrol cars — agreed to be paid by the purported cartel to “guard” trucks the officers believed were full of illicit cash, methamphetamine and cocaine, according to evidence in the case.

“Those sentenced were trusted by their communities to serve and protect,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Susan Ferensic said in the release. “Instead, while still wearing a badge, they decided to work on behalf of a drug cartel and facilitate the distribution of illegal drugs.”

The officers were told that the cartel’s trucks were traveling south through Orangeburg County on Interstate 26 with loads of money from selling drugs and then back again traveling north with loads of drugs, according to evidence in the case.

Officers accepted laptop computers, Xbox gaming systems, Google and Amazon speakers and a television as bribes, according to the 2019 indictment in the case.

Evidence gathered by the FBI in the case included wiretaps, covert audio and videos and an undercover agent who went by the name of “Jamie” posing as a member of a fake Mexican drug-trafficking cartel, according to evidence.

In a 2019 hearing, an FBI agent testified that Jenkins and Hunter were arrested one morning at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport — a place where they would be without their guns — where they had been told to catch a flight to Miami to go fishing with cartel chieftains.

Instead, agents swooped down on them at the airplane ticket counter, FBI agent Luke Davis testified in a 2019 bond hearing.

The sting began in February 2018 when the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division got a tip that an Orangeburg County sheriff’s deputy was selling counterfeit paperwork for special visas, called U-Visas, that would help immigrants stay in the country. SLED then contacted the FBI, and the investigation began.

“Keeping to the FBI’s mission, we aggressively pursued this investigation bringing together dedicated Agents and an array of resources to root out corrupt law enforcement officers who dishonor the profession,” Ferensic said. “The FBI is committed to ensuring law enforcement maintains the trust of the public it serves by never ceasing to pursue the corrupt.”

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ben Garner and Brook Andrews prosecuted the case.

Hunter was represented by Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Richland; Shazier by attorney Stanley Myers; and Franklin by attorney I.S. Leevy Johnson.

Among the exhibits for last week’s sentencing hearing was a 2017 letter by U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-Lexington, praising Franklin for her “character and dedicated public service” and telling her she has “set the standard for excellence in South Carolina.”

This is a developing story, check back for updates.

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