Federal investigators intend to file new charges against Reginald Wayne Miller, the Cathedral Bible College founder who is accused of forcing foreign students to work for low wages under the threat of deportation.
A superseding indictment with the new charges will be filed by the U.S. Attorney’s office, according to a document filed in federal court on Wednesday. Miller — whose college has campuses in Marion and Myrtle Beach — was indicted last month on two felony charges of forced labor. It is not clear whether the new charges will involve more allegations of forced labor or if they will accuse Miller of other wrongdoing.
“It is anticipated that the superseding indictment and new discovery will necessitate further negotiations between the parties,” Carrie Fisher Sherard, the assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting the case, said in a court filing asking for a delay in Miller’s pre-trial conference that had been scheduled for July 28.
Judge Bryan Harwell granted the delay on Wednesday.
Each of the forced labor charges carry a maximum 20-year prison sentence unless prosecutors prove kidnapping or aggravated sexual abuse also was involved, in which case the maximum sentence is life in prison.
Miller was arrested on May 21 and is being held at the Florence County Detention Center pending a $250,000 secured bond.
Tommy Brittain, Miller’s lawyer, said he expects the new charges will be filed in August. Brittain said he does not know what the new charges will be. Brittain said he intends to seek a bond reduction for Miller after the superseding indictment is filed.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Columbia said the agency does not comment on pending cases.
Investigators with Homeland Security said in a criminal complaint filed May 22 that Miller forced foreign students to work, sometimes more than 40 hours a week, at the Marion campus and at his personal residence in that town for as little as $25 per week. Miller threatened to cancel the students’ visas and send them back to their home countries if they complained or didn’t comply with his demands, according to court documents.
The criminal complaint stemmed from interviews Homeland Security investigators conducted in May with at least eight Cathedral Bible College students. Those students told investigators that the classes offered at the college “were not real” and the main focus of the school is having students work full-time hours.
The students also told investigators that their living conditions at the college were substandard, including long periods of time without any hot water, heat or air conditioning. They also stated that the food provided by the college “was expired or insufficient for consumption and nutrition,” according to court documents.
Investigators said the students’ work is subject to U.S. minimum wage and hour laws and that Miller does not have an exemption or authorization to pay the students at the below-minimum wage rates they described.
This is Miller’s second run-in with law enforcement. In 2006, the Horry County Police Department charged Miller with lewdness and prostitution, saying he exposed himself to an undercover police officer in a bath house at Myrtle Beach State Park, according to a police report. Miller entered into a pre-trial intervention program and the charge ultimately was expunged.
Cathedral Bible College originally was founded as Tabernacle Bible Institute in 1975 in Florence. Miller — who hosted the “Good Morning Jesus” television show during his time in Florence — moved the school to the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base in 1995, purchasing property at a reduced rate under a federal program that gave incentives to educational facilities relocating to closed military sites.
The main campus was moved to Marion in 2012 but the college also maintains property in Myrtle Beach for American and Veteran’s Affairs students.
Contact DAVID WREN at 626-0281 or via twitter at @David_Wren_