Anthony Lee Williams
Brenda LaShawn Ellerby
Sheldon Maurice Bradley
Lee County, SC (WLTX) - Lee County Sheriff E.J. Melvin has been arrested on federal drug charges, one of seven people arrested as part of an ongoing investigation.
Acting U.S. Attorney Kevin McDonald, FBI Special Agent in Charge David Thomas, and State Law Enforcement Division Director Reggie Lloyd announced the arrest mid-morning Saturday.
The agencies say teams of agents executed a federal search warrant Saturday morning, taking Melvin into custody on federal drug conspiracy charges.
Melvin, 47, has been the Lee County sheriff since 2001.
Agents also arrested the following suspects: Brenda LaShaen Ellerby, 26; Antonio Holloman, 23; Larry Williams, 51; Eric Andre Hickman, 34; Anthony Lee Williams, 37; and Sheldon Maurice Bradley, 24.
The warrants say that since 2006, the group has been part of a conspiracy to distribute about 5 kilograms (11 pounds) of cocaine and 50 grams (almost 2 ounces) of crack.
The warrants were issued earlier in the week under seal.
The suspects are scheduled to be in federal court in Columbia Monday afternoon.
The suspects face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of up to $4 million. Federal law calls for a mandatory minimum term of 10 years in prison.
"The law-abiding people of Lee County expect their Sheriff to likewise observe and uphold the law," said McDonald in a written statement. "When he fails to do that, and indeed commits crimes as we have alleged in this case, the citizens are his victims. Lee County taxpayers certainly don't deserve corrupt law enforcement in exchange for their tax dollars."
"The vast majority of public officials - both elected and appointed - are honest in their work and committed to serving their fellow citizens," Thomas said. "Unfortunately, a small percentage abuse the public trust. Public corruption is different from other crimes. It does not just strike at the heart of good government - it can strike at the security of our communities and our nation. Public corruption erodes public confidence, and undermines the strength of our democracy."
SLED Director Reggie Lloyd stated, "When a law enforcement officer uses his official position to advance a criminal purpose, his community suffers. We must act swiftly and decisively to remove corrupt officers, and restore the public's faith in law enforcement. SLED is committed to working with our federal partners to root out public corruption at all levels, but particularly in law enforcement."
In the meantime, Major Daniel Simon of the Lee County Sheriffs Department says Lee County Coroner Alford Elmore will take over as sheriff for now. Simon says he was shocked by the arrest, and is asking the public to pray for his police officers and civilian volunteers as they deal with the news.
The Coroner Elmore told News 19, "I've got some good help, Major Simon and several of them over there, so the Sheriffs Office will go on, it will keep going."
Residents in Lee County, like Dixie Dixon, say she was shocked when she heard the news, "to have a man that is supposed to be protecting us all from it, to do it himself, it's horrible".
Other residents like Josef Davis agree, "I knew him for a long time, i didn't know anything was that serious was going on, but like I said everybody has a side that everybody just dont know".
Investigators say additional arrests are expected in the case.