Tryon Commissioner Miller pleads guilty to food stamp fraud
Published 9:58 pm Monday, June 10, 2013
Johnsons also plead guilty to fraud
Leroy Miller Jr. of Polk County pled guilty May 22 to one count of misdemeanor conspiracy to defraud the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, according to Lia Bantavani with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina out of Charlotte.
Miller is the mayor pro-tem for the Town of Tryon.
Nancy Miller Johnson and William Franklin Johnson of Polk County also pled guilty to the same offense, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
Miller answered “yes” to a series of written questions in a plea agreement, including, “Are you, in fact, guilty of the count in the bill of information to which you have come to court today to plead guilty? That is, did you commit the act(s) described in count one of the bill of information?”
Miller’s plea agreement was accepted and signed by Dennis L. Howell, United States Magistrate Judge.
Miller declined comment on the charges when contacted Friday, June 7. He referred questions to his attorney, Jack Stewart Jr. who had not returned messages seeking comment as of press time Monday, June 10.
Miller was released on a $25,000 bond on May 15, according to court documents. Miller will face a maximum prison term of one year, a probationary period of five years and a $250,000 fine, according to Bantavani.
“As part of the plea agreement, the defendant has agreed to pay full restitution,” Bantavani said. “The final restitution amount will be determined by the court at his sentencing hearing…”
The conspiracy also involved Nancy Miller Johnson and William Franklin Johnson, who both pled guilty on May 15 to food stamp fraud, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The Johnsons face the same penalties as Miller. Bantavani said the two were released on bond.
According to the bill of information of the United States of America vs. Leroy Miller, filed on April 25 in the District Court of the United States for the Western District of North Carolina Asheville Division, “The United States Attorney informs the court: Count One: On or about March 9, 2012, within Polk County, within the district of South Carolina, and elsewhere, the defendant, Leroy Miller, did unlawfully, willfully, knowingly and intentionally combine, conspire, confederate and agree with others known and unknown to the United States to knowingly use, transfer, acquire, and possess benefits of the Federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (the Program) in a manner contrary to law and to the regulations issued pursuant to the Program, in violation of Title 7, United States Code, Section 2024 (b)(1), a misdemeanor. “Overt Acts: In furtherance of this conspiracy, and in order to effect the object thereof, the defendant did commit the following overt act, among others: 1) On or about March 9, 2012, in Polk County, North Carolina, the defendant obtained the Program benefits card of R.M., a person to whom the benefits card had been issued and who was solely allowed to use the card, and then used that benefits card that same day in order to make a purchase from a Bi-Lo grocery store in Landrum, South Carolina.
“Object of the conspiracy: It was the object of the conspiracy that the defendant would purchase food using the Program benefits card of R.M., a lawful participant of the Program, even though the defendant was not entitled to such benefits and was not allowed by law and regulation to use the benefits card in such a manner. All in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371.”
The bill of information was submitted by Anne M. Tompkins, United States Attorney and signed by Richard Lee Edwards, Assistant United States Attorney.
According to the bill of information of the United States of America vs. Nancy Miller Johnson and William Franklin Johnson, filed on April 25 in the District Court of the United States for the Western District of North Carolina Asheville Division, Nancy Johnson used the program benefits card of R.M. on or about March 11 at a Bi-Lo grocery store in Columbus, on or about March 14 at a Bi-Lo grocery store in Columbus, on or about March 14 at an Ingles store in Landrum and on or about March 24 at an IGA store in Tryon.
On two occasions, William Johnson used the program benefits card of R.M. at an IGA grocery store in Tryon on or about March 24 and at a Bi-Lo grocery store in Columbus on or about March 24, according to the bill of information.
The Bulletin contacted Tryon Town Attorney Bailey Nager seeking comment related to any state law or local bylaw regarding elected officials being convicted of a crime while in office.
Tryon Mayor Alan Peoples told the Bulletin Monday, June 10 that there’s not a lot to say when an elected official violates ethics training.
“If you violate the required ethics training and your sworn duty, then I think you should resign,” Peoples said.
Tryon’s other commissioners Doug Arbogast, George Baker and Wim Woody were also contacted but had not returned messages by press time.