Troopers under state investigation following $110,000 cash seizure in SC

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South Carolina Highway Patrol Corporal James Cameron Welsh (center) was awarded SCHP Troop 1’s Trooper of the Year in this April 3, 2019 photograph. Welsh is flanked by South Carolina Highway Patrol Colonel Chris Williamson (left) and former SC Department of Public Safety Director Leroy Smith. (Source: SCDPS)

SUMTER COUNTY, S.C. (WJZY) — South Carolina Law Enforcement Division investigators are working to figure out what happened the night in July when the Highway Patrol stopped John Rodreigo Holliday at a roadblock in Sumter County and seized $110,428 from him.

Holliday pulled up to the blockade on Pearson Road and ended up in the back of a patrol car and hauled off to jail.

South Carolina Highway Patrol Corporal James “Cam” Welsh was awarded the Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s South Carolina branch’s “Drug Recognition Expert of the Year” award in March 2019. (Source: SCDPS)

Troopers reported finding a distribution amount of marijuana edibles in Holliday’s car, which led to a search. Holliday’s arrest warrant shows troopers found a “large package” of individually wrapped edibles “resembling candy” in Holliday’s front passenger seat.

The search revealed $110,428 in cash inside his car, according to court documents.

Troopers charged Holliday with manufacturing or possessing drugs with intent to distribute and driving under the influence. Holliday has two prior convictions on this exact drug charge, the patrol wrote in his arrest warrant.

Holliday was booked into the Sumter-Lee Regional Detention Center on July 29, 2021.

The patrol seized Holliday’s cash and placed it in at least two evidence bags, sources with knowledge of the SLED investigation told WJZY Chief Investigator Jody Barr. SCHP policy requires troopers to perform multiple counts of seized currency, but the troopers involved in the stop counted the money fewer times than the policy requires, sources told Barr.

On Aug. 10, WJZY filed a Freedom of Information Act request with SCDP to access dash camera recordings from three troopers involved in the stop and evidence collection: Corporal James “Cam” Welsh, Trooper William Baker, and Trooper Matt Nix.

Welsh and Baker are assigned to Troop 1, which covers Sumter, Clarendon, Kershaw, Richland, Lexington and Lee counties. Nix works as an evidence technician out of the patrol’s Central Evidence Facility in Columbia and met with Welsh to collect evidence seized in the arrest, which is standard procedure for large currency seizures within the patrol.

SCDPS would not turn over dash camera video recordings from Welsh and Baker, citing an exemption in the state’s FOIA law that blocks the release of video involved in an active criminal investigation.

“The video of the arrest involving John R. Holliday is part of an active SLED investigation and will not be released at this time,” SCDPS’s FOIA Manager, Courtney S. Wiles wrote to WJZY in an Aug. 18 email. The exemption applied only to Welsh and Baker’s recordings.

South Carolina Highway Patrol Corporal James Cameron Welsh (center) was awarded SCHP Troop 1’s Trooper of the Year in this April 3, 2019 photograph. Welsh is flanked by South Carolina Highway Patrol Colonel Chris Williamson (left) and former SC Department of Public Safety Director Leroy Smith. (Source: SCDPS)

The patrol said there were no recordings produced by Nix’s dash camera.

The patrol suspended Welsh and Nix on August 3 – without pay – “for an alleged violation of department policy,” SCDPS Spokeswoman Sherri Iacobelli told WJZY.

Although Baker was at the scene during the stop, he was not suspended “as a result of the investigation,” and remains in good standing with the patrol, according to Iacobelli. Baker’s dash camera video recording, however, is part of SLED’s investigation into Welsh and Nix, SCDPS confirmed.

“SCDPS requested that the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) investigate the matter and will conduct an internal investigation through the SCDPS Office of Professional Responsibility upon completion of SLED’s investigation,” Iacobelli wrote in an Aug. 27 email to WJZY.

Trooper James “Cam” Welsh was named the South Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper of the Year in 2016. Welsh, (holding plaque) is pictured with former South Carolina Department of Public Safety Director Leroy Smith (far left), SCDPS Chief of Staff Michael Oliver (in uniform) and SCDPS’s Highway Safety & Justice Programs Director Phil Riley. (Source: SCDPS)

SLED has already administered polygraph examinations during the course of its investigation, sources confirmed to Barr.

WJZY spoke with Holliday by phone on Aug. 11 to find out whether the patrol had contacted him about the investigation into the troopers. Holliday said he had not been contacted and did not know anything about what happened to his money after the patrol seized it. Holliday referred WJZY to his attorney, Ceth Land.

Land, an attorney based in Manning, said at the time he also had not heard about the situation within the patrol regarding the traffic stop.

In an Aug. 18 response to WJZY, SCDPS also declined to release any of the chain of custody records or evidence logs related to the Holliday case. The only records the SCDPS agreed to release were the incident report and dispatch records, however, as of this report, the agency had not made those records public.

We also sought copies of the Troopers’ staff photographs, but the SCDPS has not produced those records.

WJZY messaged Welsh seeking comment for this report on Friday. The message has not yet been returned.

South Carolina Highway Patrol Corporal James “Cam” Welsh reported to the Post A office located at 520 South Pike East in Sumter, SC. Welsh was the shift supervisor for Sumter and Clarendon Counties. (WJZY Photo/Jody Barr)

Welsh joined the patrol in 2014 and Nix, a 16-year veteran of the patrol, joined the force on July 8, 2005.

Welsh has climbed the ranks of the patrol in his seven years. He was awarded the SCHP Trooper of the Year in 2016, was named Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s South Carolina branch’s “Drug Recognition Expert of the Year” in March 2019. The patrol crowned Welsh the Troop 1 Trooper of the Year in 2019 and on May 2, 2020, the patrol promoted Welsh to the rank of corporal.

SCDPS did not give a timeframe for when the agency expects SLED to finish its investigation.

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