Former postmaster from Columbia claims Tyler Perry deal, gets 27 months in prison
Sharon Johnson, 50, of Columbia, was sentenced Wednesday in federal court in Greenville, according to US Attorney Beth Drake.
Johnson was sentenced to 27 months in prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud. US District Judge Bruce H. Hendricks, of Greenville, sentenced Johnson. She was also ordered to pay $385,425.75 in restitution, and placed on three years of supervised release. Johnson, previously on bond, was taken into custody at the conclusion of the hearing.
Evidence presented at the change of plea hearing established that Patricia Sullivan, who has pleaded guilty and is awaiting final sentencing, and Johnson were co-conspirators in a scheme to defraud. Sullivan is the former Greenville postmaster. She also operated a company called HYPD Publishing (“HYPD”). In March 2009, HYPD published The Struggle of Love written by Sharon Denise Johnson.
Shortly after publication of Johnson’s book, Sullivan and Johnson began to spin a story that the producer Tyler Perry had bought the rights to The Struggle of Love and would be making a movie or reality TV show staring Johnson. Victims were told that Sullivan and Johnson were on the verge of great wealth, but needed bridge loans or some other form of financial assistance until the project with Perry reached fruition. Sullivan and Johnson promised the investors large returns in exchange for the loans and/or investments.
To make themselves look the part of successful individuals, Sullivan and Johnson squatted in several mansions, took photos, and posted them to Facebook. They also created fictitious documents from an accounting firm that “documented” the sale of the book and a huge payout to come as well as a bogus Wells Fargo statement that showed millions of dollars as pending.
There was no book deal with Tyler Perry and the victims lost the money loaned and/or invested.
The case was investigated by agents of United States Postal Inspection Service. Assistant United States Attorney Bill Watkins of the Greenville office handled the case.