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Update on federal investigation surrounding former clerk of court expected this week

Fourteenth Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone expects to meet this week with federal investigators to get an update on their inquiry into former Beaufort County Clerk of Court Elizabeth Smith's use of federal child support funds.

Stone said he is meeting with investigators with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on their investigation into accusations Smith funneled "IV-D" money to the Beaufort County Drug Court, a program run by her husband, Manning Smith. The federal money, which is disbursed to the clerk's office through the state Department of Social Services, is supposed to be used for child support enforcement. The amount Smith diverted to the program has not been disclosed.

"I'm expecting them to give me an update on what they've been doing and what they found, so to say that I'm expecting them to tell me anything more than that would be a little premature," Stone said.

Smith's use of the child support funds was what sparked the S.C. Ethics Commission Investigation into her use of public funds, an inquiry that resulted in her being charged by the state on July 30 with multiple counts of embezzlement and misconduct in office.

If federal authorities find that she misused or embezzled federal funds, she could face additional federal charges.

Meanwhile, the state's investigation into Smith's finances is moving forward as accountants from the Columbia accountingfirm Scott McElveen near the end of their forensic audit of more than a dozen accounts maintained by the clerk's office.

Stone said the audit has raised more questions about Elizabeth's Smith use of public funds, but he declined to say whether shemight face additional charges.

Scott McElveen was paid $50,000 to complete the audit shortly after Smith was indicted for writing checks worth $23,500 from clerk's office accounts to pay for insurance premiums and a vacation home on Pawleys Island.

She has pleaded not guilty to all charges and was in Beaufort County Court this week for a preliminary hearing. She is scheduled to be back in court on April 10, according to court records.

Stone said he is "cautiously optimistic" that the state will be able to try Smith before the one-year anniversary of the indictments, though a trial date has not been set.

If convicted on the state charges, Smith faces 5 to 10 years in prison and could hold public office again only if the money is repaid andshe is approved by two-thirds of the General Assembly, according to state law.

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