A second group of Irish Travelers pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in Columbia to reduced charges of criminal conspiracy, bringing to about 50 the number of Murphy Village residents snared by a three-year federal and state investigation.
Twenty-four Travelers agreed to the plea after receiving “target letters,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim May. Because they “took responsibility” and didn’t fight the charges, the government charged them with conspiracy rather than racketeering, he said. They face up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines each.
The crimes they are accused of are similar to the ones brought against the first group, which all eventually agreed to plead guilty to “conspiracy to racketeer” and face up to 20 years in prison and fines of $250,000 each.
“The travelers and certain outsiders —like car salesmen, insurance agents, and tax preparers – agreed to commit various types of crimes that included mail and wire fraud related to insurance applications, loan applications, and government benefits such as food stamps, Medicaid, and tax refunds,” U.S. Attorney’ Beth Drake said a news release. “Additionally, certain individuals participated in the interstate transportation of stolen items. Moreover, money that came into the conspiracy as a result of these criminal activities was laundered and structured to avoid reporting requirements.”
None of the nearly 50 people who have pleaded guilty have been sentenced yet. That will happen after Judge J. Michelle Childs receives pre-sentence reports on each defendant from the U.S. Probation Office.