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Sumter County man pleads guilty to wire fraud

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A Sumter County man has pleaded guilty to wire fraud involving a Sumter nonprofit, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina.

Rodney Ellis, 71, of Sumter County, pleaded guilty to defrauding Sumter Behavioral Health Services, a 501c3 nonprofit, the release said.

Evidence obtained in the investigation revealed that between 2013 and 2020, Ellis, while employed by SBHS as its financial officer, defrauded the nonprofit out of at least $800,000 by diverting funds from organization banking accounts to his own personal accounts.

“Behavioral health organizations depend on every dollar allocated to treat those seeking help for their substance abuse challenges,” Susan Ferensic, FBI Columbia Special Agent in Charge, said in the release. “It is inexcusable for someone with a high-ranking position, like Ellis, to steal the organization’s funds for personal benefit. The FBI will continue to work jointly with the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement partners to uncover the misuse of funds and hold the perpetrators accountable.”

Ellis faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. He also faces a fine of up to $250,000, restitution and three years of supervision to follow the term of imprisonment. Senior U.S. District Judge Terry Wooten accepted the guilty plea and will sentence Ellis after receiving and reviewing a sentencing report prepared by the United States Probation Office.

“This office is committed to prosecuting economic crimes, especially those that take advantage of organizations that treat some of the most vulnerable in our community,” said U.S. Attorney Corey F. Ellis. “We appreciate the efforts of all state and federal agencies involved in this case.”

The FBI and the Sumter County Sheriff’s Department investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy Bower is prosecuting the case.

Reach Christina Lee Knauss at 803-753-4327.

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