For Immediate Release
Aynor Residents Plead Guilty to Fraud
Columbia, South Carolina -- United States Attorney Bill Nettles stated today that Steven Mickey Bunker, age 47, of Aynor, South Carolina, and also of Shannon, North Carolina, pled guilty in federal court in Florence, to theft of government property, violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 641, and conspiracy to make false statements to federally licensed firearms dealers when purchasing firearms, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371. Thomas Leon Martin, age 66, and Betty Jean Martin, age 74, of both of Aynor, South Carolina, pled guilty to conspiracy to make false statements to federally licensed firearms dealers when purchasing firearms, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371. United States District Judge R. Bryan Harwell of Florence accepted the plea and will impose sentence after he has reviewed the presentence report which will be prepared by the U.S. Probation Office.
Evidence presented at the change of plea hearing established that Veterans Affairs began an investigation of Steven Mickey Bunker after the Sun News interviewed Steven Bunker and published an article concerning injuries Bunker claimed to have sustained while serving in the military in Iraq. After the news article was published, the Department of Veterans Affairs was notified because the newspaper received so much negative feedback indicating that Bunker had made false statements concerning his injuries. At the time, Bunker was receiving total disability from the VA as a result of his claims that he was paralyzed and unable to walk, drive, eat, or otherwise take care of himself without assistance. Bunker’s total disability included payment for others to take care of Bunker at his home. Bunker also received over $40,000 to purchase a vehicle to be driven by someone without the use of their legs which Bunker promptly traded for a Hummer. The VA’s investigation revealed that Bunker was able to walk, drive, and otherwise take care of himself. As a result of Bunker’s false claims he received over $159,000 in VA benefits. Also during the VA investigation it was discovered that Bunker had failed, as required, to register as a sex offender after previously being convicted for a lewd act or attempted lewd act upon a minor less than 16 years of age. It was further discovered that Bunker’s step father, Thomas Leon Martin, and Bunker’s mother, Betty Jean Martin, had assisted Bunker in purchasing twenty three firearms by lying on ATF forms when purchasing the firearms. Thomas and Betty Martin purchased the firearms by falsely stating on the ATF forms that they were purchasing the firearms for themselves knowing that the purchases were really being made for Steven Bunker who picked out and paid for the firearms. Steven Bunker was not permitted to purchase firearms because of his prior felony conviction.
Mr. Nettles stated the maximum penalty Bunker can receive is a fine of $250,000.00 and/or imprisonment for 15 years, plus a special assessment of $100.00.
The case was investigated by agents of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and the United States Marshals Service. Assistant United States Attorney William E. Day, II, of the Florence office handled the case.