State Watch

Former South Carolina sheriff, deputies sentenced to prison on corruption charges

Greg Nash
The Department of Justice logo is seen at their headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, August 5, 2021 prior to a press conference regarding a civil rights matter.

A former Chester County, S.C., sheriff and two of his deputies were sentenced to prison on Monday on a range of corruption charges.

Chester County Sheriff George Underwood and Lieutenant Johnny Neal Jr. were sentenced to 46 months, while Chief Deputy Robert Sprouse was sentenced to 24 months, according to a Department of Justice (DOJ) release.

A jury in April 2021 convicted all three men of conspiracy to violate federal law and to commit federal program theft. The DOJ said they were all removed from their positions in May 2019 upon the initial indictment.

Evidence presented to the jury showed the three defendants directing on-duty sheriff’s office employees to perform manual labor that personally benefited Underwood and Sprouse, according to DOJ.

The work involved barn renovations on Underwood’s property such as adding a bar and a television viewing area.

Underwood and Neal were also sentenced on charges of wire fraud and deprivation of rights. 

The duo allegedly took their family members to a conference in Reno, Nev., and billed the costs to the sheriff’s office, according to the DOJ, which also said they skimmed money from payments owed to other sheriff’s office employees for off-duty work.

The jury also found that Underwood and Neal violated the rights of a person who attempted to film their response to a crash in November 2018 by detaining him without probable cause.

Neal and Sprouse were found guilty of falsifying records for their work creating false incident reports about the crash. Sprouse also made false statements to the FBI to cover up the misconduct, the DOJ said.

Tags Chester County Chester County Sheriff's Office Department of Justice
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