Ex-SC DSS official to plead guilty

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COLUMBIA — The former finance director of South Carolina's social services agency has agreed to plead guilty to stealing more than $5 million from the agency, according to a plea agreement filed this week.

The agreement filed in federal court in Columbia on Monday also shows that Paul Moore has agreed to help the government recover millions as part of his guilty plea to mail fraud and theft of government funds.

From 2004 to 2008, authorities say Moore and another man, Jonathan Moses, recruited hundreds of people to cash checks Moore had made out to them from agency funds. The recruits then cashed the checks at a variety of South Carolina banks, keeping some money from each transaction for themselves but turning over most of the cash to Moore and Moses.

In all, prosecutors say Moore requested about 750 checks cut from state Treasury Department funds, for about $7,000 each. A Social Services audit showed a total of $5.5 million was missing from the agency, but only $5.2 million of that was actually cashed.

Prosecutors have said none of the check cashers or Moses worked for the Department of Social Services.

Moore, who was arrested in January, had told prosecutors he wanted to plead guilty but disputed the amount that he stole from the agency. His attorney said Moore had admitted distributing 200 checks over four years, for a total of $1.3 million, money Moore said he then spent on alcohol, gambling and strippers.

In the plea agreement, Moore agrees to help the government recover the $5.2 million he stole from the agency, the full amount prosecutors say he pilfered.

Several dozen people have been accused of helping Moore embezzle the money, and many have pleaded guilty. Last month, Moses was sentenced to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to his role in the scheme.

Moore -- the brother of former Aiken County lawmaker and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tommy Moore -- is expected to plead guilty during a court appearance Thursday. He faces a possible sentence of up to 30 years in prison and $500,000 in fines, although prosecutors could ask for a lesser sentence if he cooperates.

Moore's attorney did not immediately return a message today and federal prosecutors declined to comment on the deal.

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