U.S. Attorney Peter McCoy Announces Resignation
McCoy Departs After Leading Office Through Multiple Successes During Unprecedented Pandemic
Charleston, South Carolina – United States Attorney for the District of South Carolina Peter M. McCoy, Jr., has announced that he will be resigning as U.S. Attorney effective 11:59 p.m. on February 28, 2021.
“It has been the honor of my lifetime to serve our great nation and our beloved State of South Carolina as United States Attorney,” said U.S. Attorney McCoy in a resignation letter to the President. “Working daily with the dedicated public servants of this office to impartially enforce the rule of law, defend our Constitution, and make our communities safer is a privilege for which I will be forever grateful.”
U.S. Attorney McCoy began his service as U.S. Attorney on March 30, 2020, being first appointed Interim U.S. Attorney and then receiving unanimous confirmation by the Senate. Before being sworn in as U.S. Attorney, he served as the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the South Carolina House of Representatives and as an attorney in private practice. Prior to his time in private practice, U.S. Attorney McCoy served for five years as a criminal prosecutor in the Ninth Circuit Solicitor’s Office.
As the chief federal law enforcement officer responsible for federal criminal prosecutions and civil litigation involving the United States in the District of South Carolina, U.S. Attorney McCoy led the district of approximately 62 Assistant United States Attorneys, 75 support staff, and 18 contract support staff in four divisions across four offices throughout the state.
Under U.S. Attorney McCoy’s direction and in spite of a pandemic, the office used focused efforts to make quality cases and targeted fraud, civil wrongdoing, and criminal activity related to the coronavirus; attacked public corruption; fought to keep South Carolina communities safe from gun crimes, violence, and drugs; prosecuted substantial healthcare fraud; placed renewed emphasis on eradicating human trafficking and child exploitation; protected the Constitutional rights of South Carolinians; defended civil lawsuits filed against the United States and its federal agencies; and enhanced partnerships with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.
Among other things, these efforts made communities across South Carolina safer and resulted in charges and convictions against hundreds of defendants. The office also collected more than $54 million for taxpayers in 2020 alone. Of this amount, $49,000,580.36 was collected in civil actions and $4,839,347.03 was collected in criminal actions. Working with partner agencies and divisions, the office also collected $2,544,402 in asset forfeiture actions.
“Pandemic or not, there was no safe harbor in South Carolina for those who violated federal law on my watch,” said U.S. Attorney McCoy. “This is because the men and women of this office across our criminal, civil, appellate, and administrative divisions, along with our law enforcement partners, worked tirelessly to pursue justice for the people of South Carolina.”
Almost immediately after assuming office, U.S. Attorney McCoy established the South Carolina COVID Strike Team – consisting of over a dozen federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies – to civilly and criminally investigate coronavirus fraud schemes, hoarding, and price gouging activities. The team has reviewed more than 150 matters to date, identified more than $12 million in pandemic-related fraud losses, and recovered more than $3 million in assets.
In one of these matters, seven individuals were charged with laundering over $750,000 of fraudulently obtained funds, including over $390,000 from a Paycheck Protection Program loan. It marked the 50th PPP-fraud case in the country and identified over $2.1 million in funds which agents seized from twelve different bank accounts.
PUBLIC CORRUPTION AND CORPORATE ACCOUNTABILITY
U.S. Attorney McCoy has focused resources and efforts on prosecuting those who seek to enrich themselves on the backs of South Carolina taxpayers or those who use their positions of trust to engage in criminal activity.
Chief among these cases are those stemming from an exhaustive and joint investigation into issues surrounding the construction of the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station, including admissions in court documents that officials conspired with others to lie about the progress of the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station so the SCANA Corporation (SCANA) could wrongly increase rates on hard-working South Carolinians and qualify for up to $1.4 billion in tax credits.
Specifically, Kevin B. Marsh, former SCANA Chief Executive Officer and former Chairman of its Board of Directors, signed a plea agreement and is scheduled to plead guilty on Wednesday, February 24, in federal court to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Additionally, Stephen A. Byrne, former Executive Vice President of SCANA, pled guilty in federal court in July 2020 to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud under a plea agreement requiring him to cooperate with law enforcement officials. The agreements to date also include a requirement that Dominion Energy will, over time, provide at least $4 billion in South Carolina ratepayer relief.
Additionally, the office’s civil division worked with the Securities and Exchange Commission to settle a lawsuit against SCANA and its subsidiary SCE&G charging them with defrauding investors by making false and misleading statements about the nuclear plant expansion that was ultimately abandoned. The proposed settlement would require SCANA to pay a $25 million penalty and require SCANA and SCE&G to pay $112.5 million in disgorgement plus prejudgment interest.
The office has also brought charges, or obtained convictions, in numerous other public corruption matters, including the arrest of a high-ranking police officer for obstructing justice and operating an illegal gambling ring, the arrest of a county councilman for making material false statements in connection to the attempted acquisition of a firearm, the arrest of two individuals for conspiracy to steal personal protective equipment from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center where they were employed, and a federal prison sentence for a former police chief for stealing seized funds.
One of the primary goals of the U.S. Attorney’s Office is to improve the safety and quality of life for the people of South Carolina. During U.S. Attorney McCoy’s tenure, the office specifically and methodically targeted serious gun crimes, drug activity, and violence.
In December 2020, a federal grand jury returned a 147-count superseding indictment against 40 defendants across South Carolina in the largest federal racketeering conspiracy in South Carolina history. The indictment alleges a sprawling criminal enterprise whereby inmates within the South Carolina Department of Corrections orchestrated crimes including murder, kidnapping, firearms distribution, and an international drug operation, often by using contraband cell phones.
The office has also led the way in targeting serious firearms offenses through violent-crime proactive efforts from federal, state, and local agencies. Of the nearly 100 judicial districts across the country, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina was among the top ten offices for the number of defendants who received sentences of five years or more for firearms-related charges. Further, more than 50% of the defendants charged with firearms-related offenses in the District of South Carolina received sentences of at least five years or more, putting the office among the top U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the country. Such sentences also show the significant, long-term impact each case can have on the safety of affected communities.
Further, the office also executed numerous takedowns of alleged violent drug gangs after extensive and multi-year investigations targeting the worst types of offenders. This included the arrests of more than 100 defendants across at least seven major takedowns in the last 12 months alone:
- 48 members of three distinct alleged drug trafficking organizations in the Midlands region;
- 23 members of an alleged drug trafficking organization in Horry County;
- 18 members of an alleged drug trafficking organization in the Myrtle Beach area;
- 12 members of an alleged drug trafficking organization in the Lowcountry region; and
- 10 members of an alleged drug trafficking organization in Chesterfield County.
Additionally, 13 members of a large methamphetamine trafficking conspiracy that operated out of Georgia and the Upstate region received a combined sentence of 145 years. Hundreds of firearms and hundreds of kilograms of illegal narcotics were seized because of these operations. These major operations also join the numerous other arrests and convictions of alleged violent drug dealers, including lengthy sentences for individuals who sold drugs resulting in deaths, and federal charges against two men for their roles in a drug conspiracy and the murder of a postal employee while on her mail route.
In light of the pandemic, healthcare fraud was a major focus for U.S. Attorney McCoy. The office handled numerous healthcare fraud matters in both the criminal and civil divisions that resulted in millions of dollars in recovered federal funds.
U.S. Attorney McCoy led the office as it worked with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia to federally charge more than 40 individuals for their roles in in Operation Rubber Stamp, an expansive health care fraud scheme across South Carolina and Georgia resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent billings. The charges marked the third in a nationwide series of telemedicine fraud prosecutions, which began through investigative efforts out of the District of South Carolina. Working cooperatively with other federal districts and the Department of Justice’s Health Care Fraud Strike Force, cases have been brought in over 20 Districts across the country, resulting in over 175 individuals being charged and/or convicted, with over a billion dollars in restitution.
Additionally, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services/Center for Program Integrity separately took the largest number of adverse administrative actions resulting from a single administrative health care fraud investigative initiative in history in revoking the Medicare billing privileges of over 250 additional medical professionals for their involvement in telemedicine schemes. The District of South Carolina alone has ensured that millions of dollars have been returned, or will be returned, to these essential health care programs.
HUMAN TRAFFICKING AND CHILD EXPLOITATION
Having fought against human trafficking and child exploitation as a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, U.S. Attorney McCoy has substantially built upon the office’s work to fight child exploitation and human trafficking. Under U.S. Attorney McCoy, the office has prosecuted some 50 defendants in trafficking or child exploitation cases and assisted more than 100 victims in the past twelve months alone. The cases include a nine-victim trafficking case out of Columbia, a multistate case involving the exploitation of a minor over the internet, and allegations against a husband and wife out of Anderson for child sex trafficking.
For the first time in the District of South Carolina, under U.S. Attorney McCoy’s leadership, the office prosecuted the patrons of human trafficking organizations along with the traffickers themselves.
These cases have required a proactive approach, and thus the office has also worked extensively with law enforcement partners to help identify the signs of human trafficking and child exploitation. Further, the office’s victim-witness advocates have worked extensively with the victims in these cases, as they do with victims of all federal crimes. To assist in these efforts, the State of South Carolina received $500,000 in Department of Justice grants to provide safe, stable housing and appropriate services to victims of human trafficking. These funds were in addition to the more than $33 million in Department of Justice grants to assist victims in the District of South Carolina under U.S. Attorney McCoy’s leadership.
PROTECTING CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS
U.S. Attorney McCoy has ensured that the office continues to protect the rights of all South Carolinians. This includes resolving several civil matters alleging that citizens of South Carolina have had their rights violated in areas ranging from education to housing. During the protests last spring across the country and after the recent protests in Washington, D.C., U.S. Attorney McCoy made clear that his office would always preserve First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly while also protecting South Carolina communities from violence and destruction and assisting in the prosecution of those who disregard the rule of law. In September 2020, the office charged several individuals with federal charges for participating in actions including arson, inciting riots, and other civil disorder in Columbia and Charleston on May 30 and 31, 2020. The office has also made substantial efforts toward identifying, and assisting in the prosecution of, those who invaded the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.
SUPPORTING LAW ENFORCEMENT
As U.S. Attorney McCoy noted in his resignation letter, his success as U.S. Attorney is directly attributable to his office’s extensive work with federal, state, and local partners. Across the state, South Carolina has seen firsthand the exceptional work and bravery of its law enforcement community, and unfortunately witnessed several tragedies. Since U.S. Attorney McCoy took office, more than a dozen law enforcement officers have made the ultimate sacrifice and several others have been wounded in the line of duty. U.S. Attorney McCoy has remained committed to doing everything in his office’s power to ensure its law enforcement partners have the best training, resources, and support – including mental health support – to keep them safe.
In pursuit of those efforts, the office has worked the Department of Justice to make more than $16 million available to law enforcement agencies and public safety programs in South Carolina. This includes a $4.5 million grant to fight and prevent violent crime, $8 million to hire 63 additional full-time law enforcement professionals, and $2 million in grants to fund crime laboratories and other forensic needs.
Many of the office’s law enforcement partners expressed their gratitude for the work during U.S. Attorney McCoy’s tenure.
“Peter McCoy has been a committed and selfless ambassador for justice and public service,” said Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Special Agent in Charge Vince Pallozzi. “Peter’s been a strong supporter of law enforcement and public safety in South Carolina and has been a valuable partner with ATF in the fight against violent crime.”
“The investigative work of the U.S. Secret Service would not be successful without the support of the U.S. Attorney’s office,” said Special Agent in Charge John Hirt, U.S. Secret Service Columbia Field Office. “U.S. Attorney Peter McCoy has been a dedicated partner to the South Carolina district during one of the most difficult times in our history, and we are thankful for his dedication and support.”
“I am happy to have partnered with U.S. Attorney McCoy, and during his tenure we have investigated and prosecuted numerous significant cases to include child exploitation, human trafficking, narcotics and money laundering,” said Special Agent in Charge Ronnie Martinez, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in North and South Carolina. ”His leadership and tireless efforts to support our operations across all case disciplines has been exceptional.”
“Peter McCoy and the United States Attorney’s Office under his leadership has been a tremendous partner of the FBI,” said Susan Ferensic, Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge. “We wish him well on the next chapter of his professional life.”
“Peter McCoy and I met a decade ago when he was employed as an Assistant Solicitor,” said North Charleston Police Chief Reggie Burgess. “Peter rode along with our detectives, narcotics and SWAT on a weekly basis; and, whenever we had community meetings, he would be in attendance to witness police and community engagements. The North Charleston Police Department will truly miss Peter McCoy’s leadership as U.S. Attorney, and we thank Peter for a job well done.”
“I’ve known U.S. Attorney McCoy since before he was appointed U.S. Attorney,” said Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott. “He has always been very supportive of law enforcement. Most notable was the support he exhibited throughout the riots in Columbia last year, calling to offer his support and that of his office. My hope is that the incoming U.S. Attorney is as good and supportive to law enforcement.”
ABOUT PETER MCCOY
A Charleston resident, McCoy graduated from Hampden-Sydney College before receiving his Juris Doctorate from Regent University Law School. His work as a criminal prosecutor in the Ninth Circuit Solicitor’s Office spanned five years and included handling thousands of cases involving violence, guns, and drugs.
As a State Representative, McCoy was the lead sponsor of legislation requiring the mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse, as well as legislation establishing a mandatory minimum sentence for anyone who commits a crime while out on bond. Additionally, McCoy’s work in the legislature including passing statutes that ensure violent repeat criminal offenders do not remain out on bond if they continue to commit crimes.
U.S. Attorney McCoy thanked Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott for their unwavering support during the appointment process, nomination, and confirmation.
“South Carolina is truly blessed with the leadership of our two United States Senators, as well as those serving our great state in the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” said U.S. Attorney McCoy. “I depart the office confident that my successor will inherit an incredibly dedicated and talented team and be ready to hit the ground running.”