BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) — South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson announced today that the South Carolina State Grand Jury has issued indictments related to allegations of corruption at the Berkeley County School District [BCSD].
The first indictment was issued October 17, 2017; another separate indictment was issued November 15, 2017 – both were unsealed yesterday. The State Grand Jury charged Brantley D. Thomas, III, 61, [THOMAS] who was the long-time lead financial officer for BCSD. The indictments encompass fifteen (15) charges, including fourteen (14) charges for embezzlement and one (1) charge of forgery.
Embezzlement charges #1 and #2 allege that THOMAS, caused public school funds to be wired from a BCSD account directly into a personal bank account belonging to THOMAS and another person, whereby the funds were then converted to personal use.
Embezzlement charges #3, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #12, #13, and #15 allege that THOMAS converted public school funds to his personal use, by causing BCSD to disperse funds which supposedly were to pay legitimate BCSD expenses. These disbursements instead were converted to personal use by payment to THOMAS’s personal credit card account or deposit into THOMAS’s personal checking account.
The forgery charge [#4] alleges that THOMAS forged an invoice so that it appeared to be from a legitimate BCSD vendor but with the payment address altered to be the servicer of THOMAS’s personal credit card account. THOMAS thus caused the BCSD to make a payment from public school funds for THOMAS’s personal credit card [seecharge #3].
Embezzlement charge #11 alleges that THOMAS converted public school funds to his personal use, by personally visiting a local bank branch and executing a counter withdrawal on a BCSD account supposedly to pay an “Additional Architect Fee” for Cane Bay Middle School – instead he used that $98,349 to pay down his own personal credit card.
Embezzlement charge #14 alleges that THOMAS converted BCSD funds to his personal use, by deliberately causing BCSD to overpay a vendor and then directing the vendor to refund that overpayment to his home address whereby he converted those funds to personal use.
The total amount alleged to have been embezzled in these indictments is approximately $458,493.35. The case will be prosecuted by State Grand Jury Section Chief Attorney General S. Creighton Waters and Senior Assistant Attorney General Brian Petrano.
Berkeley County School District leaders issued the following statements:
Statement of Sally Wofford, Chairwoman of the Berkeley County School Board
This Board has been committed to cooperating with law enforcement to discover all wrongdoing and recover all monies stolen by Brantley Thomas. We are deeply disheartened that a long-time employee took advantage of his position to defraud taxpayers and our children for decades. We thank the FBI for bringing forward the original discovery to the District and for the charges that were announced today. We also could not be more grateful to the Attorney General’s Statewide Grand Jury’s Office and all of their hard work to make these additional significant discoveries and indictments that were announced today. We will continue to cooperate with law enforcement going forward.
Statement of Dr. Eddie Ingram, Superintendent
I am deeply impressed by the professionalism of this Board of Education who inherited incredible challenges but who have quickly righted the ship with focus on the children we are charged to educate and the responsibility we have to the people of Berkeley County as the stewards of their children and tax dollars.
Statement of Josh Whitley, General Counsel
Although today’s announcement is a substantial vindication for this District, there are still further necessary steps we will take to vindicate past decisions and actions that were not taken in the best interest of the District. We will continue to actively work with law enforcement on this ongoing criminal investigation.