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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bank embezzler sentenced to 18 months in South Carolina

He coached little league baseball, served his community as volunteer firefighter and was described in court as a doting father and loving husband.
But after choosing to take part in a two-man embezzlement scheme in 2005, Jason Nicklous Kizer will serve 18 months in a federal prison.
The Dorchester man known to friends and family as Nick was sentenced Monday for his role in helping drain about $330,000 from inactive accounts at S.C. Federal Credit Union while working for the government-insured lender.
The former finance director of South Carolina's social services agency was sentenced Monday to 10 years in prison for stealing more than $5 million from the agency, money he has admitted spending on strippers, alcohol and gambling.

"Never in a million years did I think I'd be standing here in this position today," Paul Timothy Moore, 61, said during his two-hour hearing in federal court in Columbia. "I let my negative actions over the course of four years erase all of the positive ones over the previous 16."

Moore, who had worked at the social services agency for 20 years, pleaded guilty in October to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and theft of government funds.

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Italian man arrested in Ravenel cocaine case

An Italian citizen charged as part of a cocaine conspiracy that included former S.C. state Treasurer Thomas Ravenel was in custody Friday after more than three years on the run, federal authorities said Friday.

Charleston-area wine expert Pasquale Pellicoro was arrested late Thursday in Belfort, France, the FBI said. It was not clear when Pellicoro would return to the United States, and court records did not list an attorney for him.

Pellicoro, 56, had been on the run since mid-2007, when he failed to appear for a court hearing on a drug conspiracy charge. Authorities said Pellicoro was one of several people who supplied cocaine for Ravenel between January 2005 and June 2007, and prosecutors have said information provided by Ravenel led to Pellicoro's indictment.

He also agreed to repay about $146,000 and will report to a supervised release program for five years after serving his time.

He and accomplice Robert Tam of North Charleston pleaded guilty in April to embezzling from the credit union over several years while working in its Summerville branch.

"I made a dreadful, selfish and very greedy decision when I'd done all this," Kizer told U.S. District Court Judge Sol Blatt Jr. during an emotionally charged hearing in downtown Charleston.

The former account manager, who is 31, offered a tearful apology to his family, his former co-workers and to the credit union, where his mother still works.

More than a dozen relatives and friends were in the courtroom to show support. Several of them stood before Blatt to vouch for Kizer's character, though each recognized the seriousness of the crime. Kizer's punishment was less harsh than what's called for under standard federal sentencing guidelines, partly because of his cooperation with authorities, his show of remorse and a potentially serious medical condition.

It was noted that Kizer had no prior criminal record and that his contributions to the local community included time spent as a baseball coach and as a volunteer firefighter in Dorchester County.

"He's helped save lives and fight fires," said Abigail Walsh, his attorney. Kizer could have been imprisoned for 30 to 41 months, but the government agreed last week to a waiver from normal sentencing guidelines, said assistant U.S. Attorney Rhett DeHart.

Prosecutors previously agreed to drop a charge of aggravated identity theft.

Walsh asked that Kizer's punishment not include incarceration so that he could keep his job and repay the North Charleston-based credit union in full more quickly.

Blatt denied the request, saying that after weighing all the factors he was unable to ignore the "substantial" amount of money that had been stolen. He also pointed to the fact that the embezzlement went on for several years, "not just a day or just a day or two."

"You couldn't erase what you've done," he told Kizer.

Blatt allowed a 90-day grace period before Kizer must report to prison.

Kizer said he has been diagnosed with cancer and won't know the extent of the disease and his treatment until after Jan. 1, when his medical insurance takes effect at his current job selling heating and air-conditioning parts.

Authorities traced the embezzlement scheme to 2005. With Kizer working as an account manager at the credit union and Tam as a risk management analyst, they siphoned off funds until the fall of last year, when they were fired.

Attorneys at Monday's hearing described Tam as the instigator. If not for him, Walsh said, "we wouldn't be here today."

Prosecutors said Tam's job enabled him to identify accounts with little or no activity. He approached Kizer about issuing bank cards in the names of those customers, according to authorities. Kizer then used those cards to withdraw cash from automated teller machines that were not equipped with security cameras. The two men shared the proceeds.

Tam's sentencing had been scheduled for Monday but was postponed at the last minute to an undetermined date. He and Kizer hugged and talked briefly outside the courtroom, minutes before Kizer was called inside.


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