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7 Federal Charges

Former Savannah Police Chief Pleads "Not Guilty"

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Savannah, GA (WSAV-TV) - SAVANNAH, GA - Former Savannah Police Chief Willie Lovett has been indicted on 7 federal charges, all stemming from alleged illegal gambling that began in 2004. Lovett is facing charges of extortion, participating in an illegal gambling operation and conspiring to obstruct the enforcement of state criminal laws.

Two other defendants, Randall Wayne Roach and Kenny Amos Blount, were also charged in the superseding indictment with running an illegal gambling business, and with conspiring with Lovett to obstruct the enforcement of Georgia gambling laws.  A fourth defendant, Randall Wayne Roach, Jr., was charged with participating in an illegal gambling business. 

The allegations say that since 2004 Roach, Blount and Roach Jr., along with others, would operate an illegal gambling business in Savannah during holiday celebrations, like St. Patrick's Day. The business was in violation of Georgia gambling laws, but would be free from law enforcement intervention. Lovett, a Major at the time, would extort cash payments from Roach and others. In return, Lovett provided protection for the illegal business. The indictment also alleges that in 2013 Lovett received cash payments on five separate occasions in exchange for protection against the enforcement of the criminal gambling laws of the State of Georgia.

"We value our relationship with the SCMPD," explained Agent Gene Kowel of the FBI. "We've stood shoulder to shoulder with them for 100 years and will continue to do that for the next 100 years to fight the crime problems that impact this community. But when a public official commits a crime we will take a hard look at that and do whatever we can to investigate."

Lovett faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and 3 years of supervised release on each of the 5 extortion charges. 

Lovett was arraigned in court and pleaded 'not guilty' to all charges. Lovett is expected to be released on $30,000 bond.

This isn't Randall Roach Senior's first run in with the law.

News 3 has learned he was arrested in Bulloch County in 2010 for running what was described as a "mobile gaming trailer" where he handed out cash prizes instead of stuffed animals.

Mayor Edna Jackson released the following statement concerning Lovett's indictment.

We have been informed of the indictment of our former police chief, Willie Lovett. This matter is being handled by the U.S. Attorney, and as such it would be inappropriate for me to offer comment. However, I do want to acknowledge the improvements implemented within the Police Department since last year.

Our City Manager and City Attorney have led a broad process that has resulted in overdue change. We are now focused on the future of the Department, including the selection of a new Chief and implementation of new programs to bring a higher level of professionalism to the department. They deserve your support moving forward."

Lovett retired last year after allegations and a possible lawsuit surfaced about an affair with a fellow officer.
(WSAV - Savannah)
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