Lexington County home to one of three 287 (g) programs in SC - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Lexington County home to one of three 287 (g) programs in the state

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

Former Lexington County Sheriff James Metts is accused of taking bribes to prevent undocumented immigrants, under his watch, from being deported, according to a federal indictment.

Metts was in charge of one of three federal deportation programs which was housed in the Lexington County Detention Center. The other programs are housed in York and Charleston Counties.

Shortly after the program was put together, Metts spoke to WIS about how it would impact Lexington County.

In 2012, Metts said he believed deporting undocumented immigrants was the right thing to do because it saved his county money and it protected the country. Now town, county and state leaders he once worked with say they are shocked he's accused of profiting from the system he once spoke so highly of.

Since 2010, more than 1,000 undocumented immigrants have been detained at the Lexington County Detention Center with 68 percent of those with criminal histories later deported.

Details from the indictment accuse Metts of taking bribes from restaurateur Greg Leon in exchange for keeping certain workers off the deportation list.

"He may have circumvented the law by taking someone off the list, and someone could've been upset with him, there may have been some civil sanction associated with that, but we wouldn't be talking about going to jail," said defense attorney Pete Strom. "But when you take cash money and take someone off a list, that's greed."

With up to $1 million in federal funding each year, Metts was running one of three deportations programs in the state known as 287 (g). The amount of the alleged bribes has not been disclosed.

"It could be any amount of money," Strom said. "It would have to be material. And we don't know what we're talking about here but they wouldn't indict him if we were talking about pennies."

Close personal friends of Metts are still at a loss for a possible motive.

"How much is a Mexican cook worth?" said Jeff Moore with the SC Sheriff's Association. "Illegal or legal, can't imagine risking my freedom, my reputation, my livelihood for a cook!"

Legal experts tell WIS because this is a federal case, it will likely go to trail within 4-6 months. 

Copyright 2014 WIS. All rights reserved.

 

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