A fourth figure in the Thomas Ravenel cocaine scandal has been charged and detained by federal agents — a French national accused of lying to authorities more than two years ago.
The man is identified as Pascal Andre Etcheber, 45, of Charleston. He was indicted last month under seal and was arrested Wednesday.
The indictment accuses Etcheber of knowingly giving fraudulent statements when he was interviewed by FBI and immigration agents in late October 2007. The subject matter concerned "his involvement in the illegal possession, use and distribution of cocaine, and his knowledge of drug activities of other persons," according to federal court papers.
Etcheber is the fourth person indicted in the scandal. Also named was Ravenel's drug supplier and another foreign national — Pasquale Pellicoro, a wine expert who reportedly fled to Europe after he was charged. He remains at large.
The origin of Etcheber's ties to Ravenel were not immediately clear, though investigators and Ravenel have described some members of his cocaine circle as world-traveled.
One of Etcheber's attorneys said his client is in the United States legally on a visitor's visa and lived on James Island. Attorney David McCann also said Etcheber is highly educated and worked as a professional consultant who helped businesses in trouble all over the world.
A message left for Ravenel was not immediately returned. He is scheduled to end his period of home detention in the Charleston area next week.
Ravenel was sentenced to 10 months in federal prison last summer after pleading guilty to a federal count of conspiracy with intent to distribute cocaine. The 46-year-old Republican was elected state treasurer in 2006 and was in office for about six months before he was indicted. Federal prosecutors said Ravenel used and shared the drug with friends but did not sell it.
Etcheber was arraigned Thursday at the U.S. District Courthouse in Charleston, where he entered a not guilty plea. Federal authorities will pursue a detention hearing next week. He is being held at the Charleston County Detention Center.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin McDonald said Etcheber was part of the "circle of individuals that were identified in the Ravenel investigation," adding that it's not unusual for federal officials to pursue cases against someone who gives agents false information that hinders an investigation. The maximum penalty Etcheber could receive includes a fine of $250,000 and five years in federal prison.
Etcheber's arrest is the first public movement in the case in months. Authorities continue to say the investigation is continuing and that additional indictments are possible.