Early last year, county officials began noticing fund misappropriations at the Greenwood County Sheriff’s Office. And more than a year later, an indictment was issued, officials with the South Carolina Attorney General’s office announced Monday.
Former Greenwood County Sheriff’s Office administrative assistant Sandi Owens was indicted by a Greenwood County grand jury Friday. Attorney General Alan Wilson issued a news release Monday afternoon announcing the indictment, which alleges the 53-year-old Ware Shoals woman embezzled more than $10,000 from the county's largest law-enforcement agency during the course of a nearly four-year span.
According to the release, Owens official indictment was for embezzlement of public funds more than $10,000. She faces a maximum term of 10 years in prison and a fine if convicted of the felony count.
The S.C. Law Enforcement Division investigated the case, and the Attorney General's office will prosecute the allegations with Assistant Deputy Attorney General Creighton Waters arguing the case. The charging documents allege Owens worked at the sheriff’s office from February 2009 through January 2013, and used GCSO funds for personal items such as food, clothing and hotel accommodations.
Greenwood County Sheriff Tony Davis, who initiated the probe by requesting a state investigation in February 2013, collaborated with Greenwood County Manager Toby Chappell to issue a joint statement Monday. The statement cites that Davis called for a SLED inquiry of Sheriff’s Office finances more than a year ago, and indicates GCSO and county officials fully cooperated with investigators during the probe.
“The Sheriff and his staff, and the County and its Council and staff, want only for the property rights of the taxpayers of Greenwood County to be protected, and therefore look forward to having this matter resolved in accordance with the law,” it stated.
Calls to one of Owens' recent phone listings went unanswered. Billy Garrett, a Greenwood defense attorney who is representing Owens, said Monday he was still in the early stages of gathering information presented during last week’s grand jury hearing. He said he expected an arraignment in the near future and noted Owens plans to fight the allegations.
“The government has not shared with us all of the information yet. We’re still in the process of looking through it,” he said. “Her plea is not guilty, and she requests her day in court.”
According to personnel documents, Owens worked at the Sheriff’s Office four years under Davis, before he terminated her Feb. 4, 2013. One day later, the sheriff asked for the state investigation into GCSO expenditures. Owens was employed as an administrative assistant at the time of her firing. The true bill of her indictment alleges she was “responsible for the safekeeping, transfer and disbursement of public funds” for the GCSO” and she transferred some of those funds for her personal use.
Last year, the Index-Journal reviewed nearly 750 pages of documents from the Sheriff’s Office, and ran a series of stories outlining the hundreds of thousands of GCSO money spent on food, out of town trips clothing, and other unusual purchases. Among the items purchased during the four-year stint during which Owens was employed by the Sheriff’s Office was a trip to Walt Disney World, $23,000 in electronic debits related to pageants across the state and nation, and nearly $200 paid to a Victoria’s Secret store in Greenville.

You can view the full indictment here:  http://bit.ly/sandi_owens