Two men charged with embezzling funds from a local union’s vacation fund may avoid prosecution, as they have signed up for a federal pretrial program.


Danny Lee Key and George Byron Herrington are both entering into Pretrial Diversion Agreements with the U.S. attorneys office, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court.


The pair were indicted in May 2012 for allegedly stealing funds from the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local Union 150’s (Local 150) vacation fund.


The Local 150 is a union of plumbers, pipe fitters, welders, HVAC personnel, sketchers and instrument fitters based in Augusta.


Participants in the Pretrial Diversion program are selected by the U.S. Attorney based on the eligibility criteria. It is an alternative to prosecution which “seeks to divert certain offenders from traditional criminal justice processing into a program of supervision and services administered by the U.S. Probation Service,” according to the Justice Department. Participants who successfully complete the program will have the charges against them dismissed; unsuccessful participants are returned for prosecution.


If the pair keep their noses clean for 18 months, a length of time for them “to show good conduct,” the charges should be dropped.



Man charged with theft of govt. funds

Mark Alexander Kraft, 55, of Aiken, has been charged in an eight-count indictment with theft of government funds and making false statements.


Kraft is alleged to have defrauded the Department of Energy by falsely claiming that a Louisiana address was his permanent home, and using that address to claim a per diem for housing.


The address, 617 New Zion Road, Winnsboro, La., was falsely used by Kraft on seven different dates listed in the indictment. Each of these dates represents a charge of giving false information that has been true billed by a federal grand jury.


According to map and GIS searches of the Winnsboro, La., there is no 617 New Zion Road.


On Thursday, Kraft was released on a $25,000 bond, with the conditions of his release restricting him to travel within South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.


The maximum penalty Kraft could receive, if found guilty, is 10 years imprisonment and to pay restitution.



Drug ring defendant still fighting case

With 13 admitted drug ring co-conspirators already sentenced to prison terms, and having signed his own guilty plea, a lone defendant is still trying to fight his case.


Venson Tyrone Jones, 30, is the last of 14 defendants to be sentenced for their part in a drug conspiracy that ran from Atlanta and through Aiken, Allendale, Barnwell and Hampton counties in South Carolina.


Jones signed a guilty plea while represented by a veteran defense attorney. But, he has since dismissed that attorney, Jack Swerling, accusing him of conspiring with the prosecution and working against him. Now, after making similar claims about his second attorney, Debra Y. Chapman of Columbia, Jones seems to be looking for another change in counsel.


Jones said, in a handwritten letter to U.S. District Court Chief Judge Margaret Seymor, that he does not feel as if he is being treated fairly.


“I am not going to get the benefit of the doubt with these court-appointed attorneys,” he wrote in one of half-a-dozen motions. Jones added that he feels both attorneys are concealing what happened to him and that Chapman told prison guards that he does not know what he is getting into and that Jones will “get a lot of time” in prison.


A hearing will be set to determine if Jones can withdraw his guilty plea. If it is allowed, the government can use any admissions – including the plea itself – against Jones at trial.