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2 charged with felony theft of PPE from law enforcement training center

Photo: Getty Images

By Riley Bean | October 21, 2020 at 12:14 PM EDT - Updated October 21 at 12:14 PM

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The U.S. Attorney General District of South Carolina Office says they have arrested two men for stealing personal protective equipment from a federal law enforcement training center.

Frank Smail Jr., 49, of Round O, and Mike Pellegrini, 58, of North Charleston, were charged in a multi-count federal indictment alleging conspiracy to steal personal protective equipment from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Charleston, the district attorney’s office says.

The USASC says Smail was also charged with PPE theft, obstruction of justice, and lying to federal agents.

Both Smail and Pellegrini worked for FLETC and the indictment says the case is being investigated by the District of South Carolina’s Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force led by the FBI.

“It is tragic that, at a time when PPE is most needed and in short supply, someone would steal this vital equipment from those who train our front-line federal law enforcement officers,” said U.S. Attorney Peter M. McCoy. “This office will always stand up and protect our law enforcement partners. I appreciate the hard work of the FBI and our HPG Task Force, which worked tirelessly to investigate this case.”

According to the indictment, FLETC – which provides career-long training to law enforcement professionals in more than 90 Federal agencies – had a student and instructor test positive for COVID-19 on March 20, 2020. Just three weeks later, the indictment alleges that Smail stole a large amount of FLETC’s PPE supply after he and Pellegrini developed a plan to do so.

“These charges reflect an alleged betrayal of colleagues and fellow citizens for selfish gain,” said Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Columbia Jody Norris. “The FBI and our partners within the HPG Task Force will not rest in our efforts to identify and hold accountable all those who seek to use this global pandemic to commit criminal acts.”

According to the indictment, the large number of boxes stolen would have required a vehicle to transport and numerous trips to load the boxes. The indictment further alleges that Smail lied to Federal investigators and obstructed the Federal investigation into the PPE theft.

“I thank U.S. Attorney McCoy for his diligence in bringing the charges forward. I am extremely disappointed in the allegations that individuals who are part of the FLETC community may have been involved in the theft of any item,” said FLETC Director Thomas J. Walters. “I am grateful that we discovered the items missing and that the FBI’s Task Force worked with FLETC’s Office of Professional Responsibility in the investigation.”

McCoy says Pellegrini and Smail face up to five years for the conspiracy charge, and Smail faces up to 10 years for the PPE theft charge, up to 20 years for the obstruction charge, and up to five years for the charge of lying to Federal investigators.

This case is being investigated by the FBI and FLETC’s Office of Professional Responsibility as part of the District of South Carolina’s HPG Task Force. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Johanna Valenzuela and Derek A. Shoemake.

A booking photo for Pelligrini was not immediately available.

Copyright 2020 WCSC. All rights reserved.

Photo: Live 5 News

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