Indicted, suspended Chester sheriff, faces new federal charges

Indicted, suspended Chester sheriff, faces new federal charges
A federal grand jury has issued new indictments against suspended Chester County Sheriff Alex Underwood and two of his deputies, court documents show. (WBTV file photo)

CHESTER, S.C. (Rock Hill Herald) - A federal grand jury has issued new indictments against suspended Chester County Sheriff Alex Underwood and two of his deputies, court documents show.

Federal prosecutors allege in new indictments made public Thursday that Underwood misused Chester County money, using it for travel for himself and family in trips to Nevada and New Orleans.

Underwood also is accused in the new indictments of directing security detail payments for off-duty deputies through accounts to avoid paying employment taxes.

Additionally, the new indictments state that Underwood directed on-duty deputies to do manual labor on his property, including repairing a barn and grading land around a pond.

The new indictments also allege that Underwood, former chief deputy Robert Sprouse, and former sheriff’s office Lt. Johnny Neal engaged in a conspiracy to use their positions to intimidate others, as well as take family members on trips charged to the sheriff’s office and use deputies for labor.

Underwood and the deputies “knowingly devised a scheme and artifice to defraud and obtain money and property by means of false pretenses,” the new indictments state.

Underwood, Neal and Sprouse have each denied all the previous charges through their lawyers and in court, and remain free on bond. All have pleaded not guilty in federal criminal court.

The three are set to appear in federal court in Columbia Dec. 3 to be arraigned on the new charges, according to federal court documents.

Underwood was suspended from office on May 7. Prosecutors say he lied to the FBI, falsified police reports and falsely arrested two people after the people videotaped a traffic incident near their home in November 2018.

Sprouse and Neal were indicted by federal prosecutors with Underwood on May 7 on additional charges of violating the civil rights of Kevin Simpson and Simpson’s mother during the 2018 video incident. Underwood and the deputies made up phony police reports to justify the seizure of the video and the phone it was taken on, federal prosecutors say.

Those charges from May remain part of the indictments against all three, court documents show.

Simpson and his mother have filed a false arrest civil lawsuit against the sheriff’s office.

No trial date has been set in the federal cases against Underwood and the two former deputies.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

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