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Mystery shrouds Ravenel drug case

June 27, 2007

Authorities won’t give details about how he became a suspect

By AARON GOULD SHEININ – asheinin@thestate.com


Thomas Ravenel

Thomas Ravenel

The drug deal that eventually led to state Treasurer Thomas Ravenel in a federal drug case might have happened in January 2006 and might not have included the 44-year-old Republican.

According to a Charleston Police affidavit, a confidential informant purchased 14.23 grams of cocaine for $450 from Michael Levon Miller at 10:47 p.m. on Jan. 3, 2006, at a Charleston apartment complex. It does not list Ravenel.

Almost 16 months later, Miller and Ravenel are indicted on federal charges of conspiracy to possess and intent to distribute cocaine.

What remains unclear is:

When did police and SLED learn about the January 2006 drug buy involving Miller and the confidential informant?

Why wasn’t Miller arrested 16 months ago?

Did they use the evidence from the informant to pressure Miller into implicating Ravenel?

None of the law enforcement officials involved in the case will answer those or other questions about the case. U.S. Attorney Reggie Lloyd said that as the case plays out in court, much more will become clear.

Miller, 26, is in the Charleston County Detention Center on state charges of trafficking cocaine, charges that stem from that 2006 sale to a confidential informant, according to Miller’s arrest warrant and the attached affidavit, both of which were obtained by The State on Thursday.

Miller’s arrest report describes him as 6-foot-3, 170 pounds with brown eyes and a scar around his right eye. He was born in Sumter and has aliases of Hash or Hashmere. He lists his occupation as self-employed DJ.

Efforts to reach Ravenel and his attorney, Joel Collins, were unsuccessful Thursday. Neither has spoken publicly about the case since the indictments were announced Tuesday.

Miller, whom authorities have described as a drug dealer, and Ravenel face a July 9 arraignment in federal court. Ravenel was suspended from office Tuesday by Gov. Mark Sanford, who named Columbia tax attorney Ken Wingate interim treasurer on Wednesday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin McDonald said Thursday that it’s not unusual for a defendant in a federal drug case to be allowed to turn himself in for arraignment, as opposed to being arrested.

While he could not provide statistics, McDonald said “approximately half of defendants receive a summons” rather than being brought into custody.

“Basically it’s done on a case by case basis,” he said. “We make an assessment whether the individual is likely to appear for court.”

Ravenel was deemed a likely candidate to appear, he said.

Columbia attorney Dick Harpootlian, a former state prosecutor and veteran defense attorney, said Ravenel does not seem to be getting special treatment.

“In federal court, it’s very common to allow people to surrender themselves,” said Harpootlian, a former chairman of the S.C. Democratic Party. “In federal court, (cases) are typically initiated by indictment. In state court, it’s typically initiated by an arrest warrant.”

The case evolved from the Charleston Police Department to SLED to the FBI and U.S. attorney over the course of more than a year. The Charleston police asked SLED for help in a narcotics investigation, SLED Chief Robert Stewart said Tuesday.

“During the course of that operation, information was developed that Treasurer Thomas Ravenel allegedly was involved in this illegal activity,” said Stewart, who later asked the federal authorities to get involved.

Stewart said he brought in the FBI and U.S. attorney to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest, since Ravenel not only signs SLED paychecks, but also controls vast sums of public money.

According to the indictment, Ravenel and Miller conspired together to possess and distribute cocaine since at least late 2005, more than a year before Ravenel was elected in November 2006.

Stewart and Lloyd would not describe Miller and Ravenel’s relationship or explain how they discovered the men’s connection.

Reach Gould Sheinin at (803) 771-8658.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. Denis Sined permalink
    June 27, 2007 7:00 PM

    This stinks of a setup, of entrapment to be specific.

    • Why wasn’t Miller arrested 16 months ago?

    Answer: To entrap T-Rav.

  2. Finley Peter Dunne permalink
    June 27, 2007 9:31 PM

    Lots of questions can be asked but the big one is: Why haven’t Ravenel or one of his attorneys commented on the charges?

    Logic would seem to dictate that the FBI, SLED and Charleston Police Department exercised an abundance of caution and took their time in investigating a high-profile case like this. Come July 9 we’ll start to see how well the case was made.

    The rehab thing smells like a Ravenel gambit to avoid responsibility for his actions.

  3. Jean Gibbons permalink
    June 28, 2007 12:55 AM

    I’m not a genius, but something about this doesn’t make sense. jkg

  4. June 28, 2007 3:59 AM

    Jean,

    We could not agree with you more, our sources tell us that the water-cooler talk is much a buzz trying to tie the Tres with the Lt. Gov and we call BS on that and so does the rest of our conservative respectable community.

    Thomas is a human being, accomplished and a flawed sinner as just the rest of us. Let the good courts decide what is just and let us pray for this man that has so much good in his heart, so much promise for South Carolina and whose family has done so much for this great State of South Carolina and our country.

  5. Big D permalink
    June 28, 2007 11:05 PM

    After reading Sewell’s comments, one thought comes to mind: Gag!

    Are y’all that blind? Do y’all actually think that SLED, the Charleston PD, and the FBI would implicate someone of such stature if they did not have evidence to convict him?

    “Thomas is a human being, accomplished and a flawed sinner as just the rest of us. Let the good courts decide what is just and let us pray for this man that has so much good in his heart, so much promise for South Carolina and whose family has done so much for this great State of South Carolina and our country.”

    I guess we all would leave our fiancee at the altar and have our secretary call to tell her we weren’t going to the wedding. I guess we all would invite friends out on our boat, and let them all have some blow.

    Wake up! The guy you voted for did wrong. Just like those who voted for Clinton, you are experiencing disappointment in someone you had high expectations for.

    He obviously has drug problems, I mean, I doubt he is going to Arizona for $hit$ and giggles. Get out of your dream world, your candidate is a criminal.

    For Republicans also see:
    Thad Viers, Wallace Scarborough, Andre Bauer, Richard Eckstrom, and Charlie Sharpe… just to name a few in SC. Let’s not get started with the Tom DeLay’s on the federal level.

    (And since his name came up, what does Eckstrom’s Watchdog Report have to do with the finances of South Carolina? He mentions, America, God, America, God again, America, and I think God. I’m a patriotic Christian, but come on Richard! You wouldn’t be going after some Lexington and Greenville County votes would you? America!)

    Back to T-Rav… joking aside, he definitely has the best legal team money can buy in the Southeast. Daniel and Gedney? I can see Ravenel getting off of these charges with those two representing him.

    Take care,
    Big D

  6. RICH permalink
    July 11, 2007 2:02 AM

    How about the other local politicians and well known dignitaries that played in the snow with T-Rav. I noticed that the P&C has very little about this story, jeez I wonder why. Who are they trying to protect. I hear this story hits close to home with them, those in the know, know what I’m talking about. The party in the battery, the hidden cameras, those who flipped and mentioned names. A good investigative reporter could have a field day with this story and probably sell a screenplay. City Paper and The State-keep on top of this story because you own it. The P&C doesn’t want to get dirty with this one.

  7. Anonymous permalink
    July 24, 2007 3:10 AM

    The right to criticize anonymously on the Internet is a fundamental free speech right and an important tool for whistleblowers and consumers who speak out about the misconduct or corruption of big companies or public figures.

  8. COCAINE DISTRIBUTION permalink
    August 22, 2007 2:20 AM

    It IS, what it IS!

    COCAINE DISTRIBUTION! If his sentence is reduced from 20 years to a matter of months or nothing. What is the message the Prosecutors are sending to the Drug Smugglers? Hey, CRIME PAYS! CRIME PAYS BIGTIME! If you hire the right attorney and pay them enough money, you’ll get off with minimal punishment.

    We should all be very proud of our justice system.

  9. Third Man Indicted permalink
    August 22, 2007 9:17 PM

    Third man indicted with Ravenel on cocaine charges
    By RICK BRUNDRETT – rbrundrett@thestate.com
    A third person has been indicted along with former state Treasurer Thomas Ravenel on a federal charge of conspiring to possess and distribute cocaine, according to an amended indictment issued this afternoon.

    The defendant was identified as Pasquale Pellicoro, though no other identifying information about him or details about his alleged crime were presented in the indictment. A grand jury meeting in U.S. District Court in Columbia issued the amended indictment, known as a superseding indictment.

    Federal prosecutors and Ravenels attorneys could not be immediately reached for comment.

    Ravenel, Pellicoro and a third defendant, Michael L. Miller, 25, of Mount Pleasant, each is charged with conspiring to possess and distribute less than 500 grams of cocaine, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

    The amended indictment also charges Miller with eight new counts of possession with intent to distribute and distributing less than 500 grams of cocaine from Sept. 20, 2005, through Jan. 3, 2006.

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