Former Greenville Postmaster pleads guilty in fraud scheme

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A formerly Greenville County Postmaster and a co-conspirator in a publishing investment fraud scheme recently pled guilty in federal court in Greenville.

United States Attorney Beth Drake stated that Patricia G. Sullivan, 66, and Sharon D. Johnson, 50, both of Columbia, pled guilty to a conspiracy to commit wire fraud, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349. United States District Judge Bruce Howe Hendricks of Charleston accepted the plea and will impose sentence after she has reviewed the presentence report which will be prepared by the U.S. Probation Office.

Evidence presented at the change of plea hearing established that Patricia Sullivan, who formerly served as postmaster for Greenville County, and Sharon Johnson were co-conspirators in a scheme to defraud various individuals. Sullivan operated a company called HYPD Publishing (“HYPD”). In March 2009, HYPD published The Struggle of Love written by Sharon Johnson.

Shortly after publication of Johnson’s book, Sullivan and Johnson began to spin a story that the producer Tyler Perry had bought the rights to The Struggle of Love and would be making a movie or reality TV show staring Johnson. Victims were told that Sullivan and Johnson were on the verge of great wealth, but needed bridge loans or some other form of financial assistance until the project with Perry reached fruition. Sullivan and Johnson promised the victims large returns in exchange for the loans and/or investments.

To make themselves look the part of successful individuals, Sullivan and Johnson squatted in several mansions, took photos, and posted them to Facebook. They also created fictitious documents from an accounting firm that “documented” the sale of the book and a huge payout to come, as well as a bogus Wells Fargo statement that showed millions of dollars as pending.

Of course, there was no book deal with Tyler Perry and the victims lost the money loaned and/or invested. Law enforcement estimates that the loss to the victims is approximately $300,000.

Ms. Drake stated the maximum penalty defendants can receive is a fine of $250,000 and/or imprisonment for 20 years, plus a special assessment of $100.

The case was investigated by agents of the United States Postal Inspection Service. Assistant United States Attorney Bill Watkins of the Greenville office handled the case.