Former Savannah police chief to be released from prison
SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Former Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Chief Willie Lovett is scheduled to be released from federal prison on Friday, July 30, 2021.
Lovett, 72, has served about six and a half years of his prison sentence after a jury convicted him in 2015 of aiding and abetting a commercial gambling operation. He’s being released from prison about a year early for good behavior, according to court files.
Once released, he is free to go back home and will remain under federal supervision for three years in under these conditions:
- Within 72 hours of being released from prison, he must report to probation.
- Lovett cannot possess a firearm, must provide a DNA sample to probation, along with all the standard supervision requirements.
- Special conditions include – drug and alcohol testing, provide probation access to any requested financial information and he cannot incur new credit charges or open additional lines of credit without probation approval and must give probation full access to his property upon request.
Carnival gambling operation conviction
Lovett organized and led the police protection of Randall Roach’s carnival gambling operation from at least 2000 through 2013, including during the annual St. Patrick’s Day festival.
The former police chief is one of three people sentenced. Two of the men involved pleaded guilty in 2014 - ahead of his trial date.
Randall “Red” Wayne Roach was sentenced to 15 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on a federal charge of conspiracy to obstruct enforcement of state criminal laws.
Kenny Amos Blount was sentenced to five years of probation on a federal charge of conspiracy to obstruct enforcement of state criminal laws.
Lovett controlled Savannah-Chatham Metro officers who Roach paid to act as “security” during Roach’s gambling operations.
Roach also paid Lovett protection payments of several hundred dollars each day he operated in Chatham County.
Prosecutors estimated the extortion payments amounted to between $30,000 and $70,000.
During trial, Roach and two of his agents testified about the conspiracy between Lovett and Roach and the protection the police chief gave Roach for his illegal gambling operation in exchange for payment.
On the stand, Roach said he was not concerned about the officers providing security even though they could see his carnival included a gambling operation. He knew the officers were hand-picked by Lovett.
Officers, who worked with Lovett, also testified in support of the conspiracy, noting that Lovett showed up when they were investigating Roach and told them he knew Roach in an effort to stop an undercover investigation involving Roach.
FBI Special Agent Joshua Hayes told the jury he took video surveillance of Roach’s gambling operation during the week of the 2013 St. Patrick’s Day festivities. William Holtz, one of Roach’s agents who was working as an FBI informant, had called, prompting Hayes to go to the carnival and conduct in-person surveillance. While there, Hayes saw Lovett visit the gambling trailer six times.
During Hayes’ testimony, the government played surveillance video of the transactions occurring between Lovett and Roach. Hayes testified that each time Lovett visited the trailer, he parked his car nearby and Roach walked up to the car, stuck his arm in the car, and pulled his arm back out, while the two men continued to talk for several minutes. On one occasion, Hayes saw Lovett exit his car, reach into his pocket, pull out money and count it. Most of the time, Lovett wore his police uniform and was parked approximately 15 to 20 feet away from the trailer where people could be seen gambling, Hayes testified.
A federal jury found Lovett guilty of one count of aiding and abetting commercial gambling, one count of conspiring to obstruct Georgia’s gambling laws, two counts of extortion for the events of March 17, 2013, and two counts of making false statements to FBI agents. He was sentenced to 90 months in federal prison.
Lovett to receive six-figure city pension
At the time he was sentenced, several members of the Savannah City Council did not want Lovett to receive his city taxpayer-funded pension. It’s valued at about $130,000 each year.
Under state law, Lovett will receive his pension.
During the time he was in prison, it’s estimated he collected around $845,000 from his pension.
As a part of his federal sentence, Lovett did have to pay a one-time fine of $50,600.
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