By Stan Welch
Less than a year after his silver securities scheme came crashing down around him, former Anderson County Councilman Ron Wilson has landed as softly as could be hoped, in a federal prison camp in Florida.
Wilson, sentenced to nineteen and a half years, will, barring future developments, serve that time in a minimum security facility in Sumter County Florida. Orlando is fifty miles away, and Tampa is seventy five miles away.
Wilson was transferred sometime after the Christmas holiday. The facility is described as a federal prison camp, based on the level of security, the ratio of staff to inmates, and the level of perimeter barriers, which is described as minimal at the Coleman Low facility.
There are four levels of custody at the facility. Wilson is at the lowest, followed by low security, medium security, and the US Penitentiary. A total of approximately 7200 inmates are on the grounds in one facility or another.
Wilson’s company, Atlantic Bullion & Coin, was precipitously closed by the S.C. Attorney General’s office last February; and within weeks, he was charged with federal mail fraud in connection with a Ponzi scheme that swindled approximately $60 million from some 800 investors.
Wilson immediately began cooperating with federal authorities, identifying assets purchased with the monies he stole, and cooperating with the investigation in other ways as well.
Wilson, who once also served on the state school board, served two terms as a member of the Anderson County Council, before declining to seek a third term in 2010. He played a major role in the buyout of former county administrator Joey Preston’s contract; an action by the 2008 lame duck Council that led to a state grand jury investigation.
No indictments or charges resulted from that investigation, but Wilson had much larger problems by then.
Secret Service Special Agent Thomas Griffin appeared before 250 potential victims in Easley soon after Wilson’s business was closed. He and U.S. Attorney Bill Griffin promised swift action, and they delivered.
The government’s case centered on its allegations that Wilson sold customers an instrument called a “Silver Investment Account, “wherein the investors did not Take physical possession of silver bought on their behalf. Instead, Wilson claimed to hold his clients’ silver at a Delaware Depository” (information quoted from court documents).
Wilson was freed on $1 million bond. The conditions of his plea agreement, which was approved by U.S. District Judge Michelle Childs, required his continued cooperation with both the investigation and efforts to identify and retrieve assets, to be liquidated in order to compensate victims as fully as possible.
Judge Childs also appointed Greenville attorney Beattie Ashmore as receiver in the case, charging him with seeking, identifying, and seizing all assets in the case, so that they might be liquidated and the proceeds used to compensate the victims as fully as possible.
By the end of July, Wilson had plead guilty to two counts of mail fraud. While he would appear at the trial between the County and Joey Preston, he invoked his Fifth Amendment rights approximately ten times before being excused from the witness stand.
Preston, who has conceded investing $200,000 with Wilson and recouping $600,000, as well as steering other investors to Wilson, continues to claim that he also was a victim of Wilson’s scheme.
Wilson will be 82 years old when he is released.