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Dublin: 10 °C Thursday 17 October, 2019
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19 members of US Irish Traveller community charged with federal racketeering

Money laundering, illegal bank transactions and fraud are among the charges.

Members of the group charged leaving the courthouse in Columbia.
Members of the group charged leaving the courthouse in Columbia.
Image: Screengrab via postandcourier.com

NINETEEN MEMBERS OF a US Irish Traveller community have pleaded not guilty to federal racketeering charges after they appeared in court in South Carolina yesterday.

Local media report that the Irish Travellers were all released by a judge on a $25,000 bail following an arraignment hearing yesterday and told to “stay out of trouble”.

The State reports that the accused - 11 women and eight men – are charged with a range of offences allegedly uncovered by an FBI investigation that has lasted over a year.

These include:

  • Money laundering
  • Illegal banking transactions
  • Food stamp and medicaid fraud
  • Other alleged crimes

At yesterday’s hearing in Columbia, Federal Magistrate Judge Shiva Hodges read out the charges the group faced.

She told the accused that all the charges carry a maximum $250,000 fine and 20-year prison sentence.

The State reports that the group’s legal team is made up of some of South Carolina’s most prominent and high-priced criminal defence lawyers, including several former federal prosecutors.

One defence lawyer hinted that the lengthy investigation was helped by at least one inside informant, although this was not confirmed by the prosecution.

Murphy Village 

The Post and Courier reports that all but one of the accused come from a place called Murphy Village in Aiken County in South Carolina.

The area is home to one of the largest communities of Irish Travellers in the US, with about 1,400 living there, according to the 2010 US Census.

The Irish Traveller community in Murphy Village are believed to have descended from Irish immigrants to the US in the 1850s and are known for their closed ways.

A 2013 TV3 documentary looked into the lives of the Irish Traveller community in the US and found it shared many similar traits and customs with the Traveller community in Ireland.

The State also reports that federal prosecutors moved to seize 25 high-end vehicles from Travellers in the Murphy Village area.

A small segment of the Irish Traveller community in the US has been subjected to intense scrutiny and police raids for years, but this is by far the biggest investigation into the dealings of members of the community.

Comments have been disabled as the case is before a US federal court

Read: Irish Travellers are prospering in America and “make most of their money from life insurance”

Read: Break for the border: Donald Trump is going to Mexico today

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About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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