One of the defendants involved in a multistate Internet theft ring centered at a North Charleston pawnshop has admitted her role.
On Monday morning in a federal courtroom in Charleston, Kelly Wingate, 37, stood before a judge and pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to transport stolen goods through interstate commerce.
Wingate admitted to shoplifting items from stores around the Lowcountry and selling them to Patriot Pawn in North Charleston. The store's owner, Eugene Walter Jones, who also has been indicted, knew the items were stolen, according to federal prosecutors.
The items were then sold on eBay by Jones and Danny Beacham, who has also been indicted in this case, officials said.
Beacham is a former North Charleston police officer who retired in September. He started with the force in 1992 and had served as a supervisor of the vice squad, according to police records.
Wingate sold Jones stolen goods more than 30 times, according to prosecutors. “She was one of his biggest suppliers of stolen goods,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Rhett DeHart said in court.
In total, about $1 million in stolen goods were sold on the site to buyers in Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and California, officials said.
Jones recruited Wingate and others, including Philip Wingate, Catherine Yants, Gerald Sullivan Jr. and Jerome Smalls, to steal merchandise and sell it to the pawnshop at far less than retail value, according to prosecutors. All of them have been indicted in the case.
The crew stole items, such as vacuum cleaners, computer software and kitchen appliances, from several retail stores including Lowe's, Walmart and Home Depot, according to prosecutors.
Wingate's plea agreement states that she agrees to pay full restitution, which will be determined later. She must also cooperate with prosecutors. Wingate will be sentenced at a later date.
Reach Natalie Caula at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.
Previous versions of the image accompanying this story showed the wrong Kelly Wingate. The correct Kelly Wingate photo is shown above. The Post and Courier regrets the error.