Restaurant owner Greg Leon is cooperating with authorities in the corruption probe of suspended Lexington County Sheriff James Metts, Leon’s attorney said Thursday.
“He is fully cooperating with state and federal authorities as regards Sheriff Metts,” said Dick Harpootlian, Leon’s attorney, during a court hearing.
The revelation came as Leon, accused of paying bribes to Metts, and two others were in court Thursday to face charges stemming from the probe.
Leon, former Lexington Town Councilman Danny Frazier and former South Congaree Police Chief Jason Amodio each are free on $50,000 bond.
In addition, Leon will be allowed to visit his ailing father in Mexico with permission of the authorities.
Leon needs to see his father “from time to time” but will return for proceedings “whenever they (investigators) want him,” Harpootlian said.
Leon joins Frazier in assisting prosecutors in the probe of Metts for misconduct in office, according to lawyers for the pair.
Former Richland County deputy Larry Flynn also is cooperating in the Metts investigation, Flynn’s lawyer has said.
Flynn is charged separately by federal prosecutors with operating an illegal gambling business and money laundering in connection with his Magic Minutes operation.
Metts awaits trial after pleading not guilty to a 10-count federal indictment.
He is accused of taking bribes to keep four illegal immigrants out of the county jail he supervised so they could return to work in restaurants that Leon owns. Frazier is accused of delivering some of the alleged payments to the sheriff.
Metts, 67, is suspended without pay from the post he held nearly 42 years. Metts has said through his lawyers that he denies the allegations and will fight the charges. He faces up to 10 years in prison plus fines of up to $250,000 if convicted.
The charges are the first in what South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office says is an ongoing investigation. Some officials say the probe began with an examination of illegal gambling before spreading into other areas.
Amodio, Frazier, and Leon told Circuit Judge Robert Hood they would appear in future proceedings as required after being informed of the charges that a State Grand Jury brought against them. Those charges are:
• Leon, 47, is accused of bribing Metts in 2011 so illegal immigrants facing deportation who worked for him could return to their jobs.
• Frazier, 46, is accused of delivering bribes twice to Metts on behalf of Leon and helping arrange for release of two other immigrants as well as bribing Amodio in exchange for what prosecutors said was the release of gambling machines seized by town police.
• Amodio, who turns 46 Friday, is accused of accepting payments from Frazier in exchange for the machines.
None of the three had anything to say after the conclusion of the brief hearing at the Richland County Judicial Center.
Frazier worked a few months as a part-time consultant for Metts in 2012 and was a political ally of some leaders in South Congaree, a community of 2,300 near Columbia Metropolitan Airport. He also has relatives who were in the video poker industry when it was legal in the 1990s.