CHARLESTON, S.C. The former chairman of South Carolina State Universitys board of trustees was charged Thursday in a kickback scheme that accuses him of influence pedaling and profiting from inflated bills for the colleges 2011 homecoming concert.
Greenville businessman Jonathan Pinson used his position as chairman of the board to enrich himself, a federal indictment unsealed in Columbia states.
Pinson, 42, also is accused of conspiring with the fired campus police chief, Michael Bartley, and a Florida businessman, Richard Zahn, to try to get the university to buy property in Orangeburg County known as Sportsmans Retreat.
Using telephone wire taps, prosecutors say they caught Zahn, who owns Sportsmans Retreat, telling Pinson on Oct. 17, 2011, that once the university buys the property Pinson would have a (Porsche Cayenne) in his backyard.
Pinson pleaded not guilty in Columbia. Bartley admitted his guilt in Charleston and is awaiting sentencing, prosecutors said.
Both former S.C. State officials, along with a third defendant another Greenville businessman were freed pending future court appearances.
Federal authorities thwarted the sale of Sportsmans Retreat, prosecutor Mark Moore said during a hearing Thursday morning in Charleston. Bartley, 48, pleaded guilty and faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. But Moore said his office might recommend a lesser penalty because he cooperated with the FBIs investigation from the beginning.
The indictment of Pinson which was issued under seal and disclosed Thursday accuses fellow Greenville businessman Eric Robinson and Robinsons WE Entertainment company of scheming to steer the contract for promoting the homecoming concert to WE Entertainment.
Lawyers for Pinson and Robinson said the charges are baseless and flawed and that their clients intend to fight them.