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South Carolina freshman lawmaker accused of misbranding stem cells

A freshman South Carolina state lawmaker said Wednesday plans to plead guilty to federal charges over the mislabeling of stem cells by a business he once owned.

Rep. Stephen Goldfinch Jr., R-Murrells Inlet, told The Associated Press that he had been cooperating with federal prosecutors in Houston, where he was charged this week with one count of misbranded drugs.

Federal prosecutors say Goldfinch, 31, owned Caledonia Consulting, a Mount Pleasant company that harvests and processes stem cells from umbilical cord blood. The government says that between April 2006 and December 2008, Caledonia sold stem cells to a Texas man who performed unapproved procedures involving the material.

Goldfinch said Wednesday that, in 2008, he was in the process of trying to sell Caledonia to another company. As part of that sale, he said he hired a contractor that Caledonia had used for several years to train the new owner on some of his company's protocols.

"Unbeknownst to us, while he was out there training the new guys ... he was making deals with the new lab to sell them additional cells that weren't part of the original agreement," Goldfinch said,

That contractor, Goldfinch said, didn't provide certain documentation about the cells that is required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

"While he was stealing from me, he was not following the law," Goldfinch said.

The contractor, Vincent Dammai, pleaded guilty earlier this year to selling the mislabeled stem cells. He is scheduled to be sentenced next month.

Goldfinch, now an attorney, said that he was contacted by federal authorities about two years ago — after he had already announced he would run for the state House — about their investigation into Dammai. Last week, he said investigators told him that he would also be charged, and Goldfinch said Wednesday he accepted responsibility.

"Because he broke the law, I'm ultimately responsible for his wrongdoing," he said. "As a business partner, I should have known, and I should have done more to ensure that he was doing his job. I had the best intentions and didn't mean to do anything wrong."

Goldfinch said he has hired former South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster to help him work out a plea agreement with federal prosecutors. 

No court dates have been set.