COLUMBIA - A South Carolina sheriff was among nine people arrested today and charged with drug distribution, federal authorities said.
Lee County Sheriff E.J. Melvin, 47, was arrested and charged with drug conspiracy, according to Acting U.S. Attorney Kevin McDonald.
Melvin and the others are charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of powder cocaine and 50 grams or more of crack cocaine, authorities said.
Melvin has been sheriff since 2001. McDonald says the drug conspiracy began in 2006.
None of the eight other people arrested - Brenda LaShawn Ellerby, Antonio Holloman, Larry Williams, Eric Andre Hickman, Anthony Lee Williams and Sheldon Maurice Bradley, all of Bishopville - were identified as sheriff's department employees or public officials.
No other information about the case was immediately available, and court documents are sealed, McDonald said.
Melvin and the other people arrested are scheduled to appear in federal court in Columbia on Monday, McDonald said. It was not immediately clear if they had attorneys, and there was no answer at the Lee County sheriff's office in Bishopville.
"The law-abiding people of Lee County expect their sheriff to likewise observe and uphold the law," McDonald said in a news release today. "When he fails to do that, and indeed commits crimes as we have alleged in this case, the citizens are his victims."
If convicted, Melvin and the other eight people arrested could face at least 10 years in prison and up to $4 million in fines.