FL developer pleads in SC State kickback probe

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP/WCIV) - A Florida developer pleaded guilty to his role in an alleged kickback scheme involving a former trustee at South Carolina State University.

Richard Zahn pleaded guilty in Charleston on Friday to a charge of conspiracy to defraud the federal government.

Prosecutors say the Longwood, Fla. developer owned land near the Orangeburg school and asked trustee Jonathan Pinson to help him sell it to the university.

As a "thank you" gift for his help, prosecutors say Zahn told Pinson he would buy him a Porsche SUV.

"From the FBI standpoint and the U.S, Attorney's office we are very pleased that Mr. Zahn has accepted responsibility for his actions," Nancy Wicker, Assistant U.S. Attorney said.

Zahn declined to comment after his plea hearing. His attorney, Andy Savage spoke for him.

"He regrets succumbing to the pressure that was placed upon him. He wants to do everything he can do to address that situation."

Savage said Zahn is an honest business man that realizes he made a mistake and is willing to work with authorities.

"When he came to South Carolina, he was not aware of the culture of corruption. Once he understood the cost of doing business there he succumbed to that," Savage said.

Pinson was arraigned last month on a federal kickback charge. South Carolina State's former campus police chief has already pleaded guilty in the case.

Zahn will be sentenced at a later time. He remains free on a $100,000 bond until a sentencing hearing where he could fact up to five years in prison.

The FBI was able to stop the scheme before it took place in November 2011.