September 16, 2014

Judge: Myrtle Beach car dealer must repay $8 million he defrauded

Image captured from Lavincars.com before it was taken off web (Image: Lavincars.com)

Image captured from Lavincars.com before it was taken off web (Image: Lavincars.com)

A former Grand Strand used car salesman will have to repay more than $8 million that prosecutors say he defrauded from two banks over the course of a decade.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Friday that Harry “Howie” Lavin III, 53, of Little River was sentenced to more than 6 years in prison in a check kiting scheme. Lavin pleaded guilty last year to bank fraud. Authorities say he made dozens of deposits and withdrawals at two banks for 11 years to maintain the scheme.

A judge also ordered Lavin — who owned Lavin Sales, Inc. in Myrtle Beach– to pay more than $8.5 million in restitution.

Prosecutors claim Lavin used another business he owned to purchase vehicles from Lavin Sales, Inc. According to an indictment against him, Lavin would deposit checks drawn on one of his bank accounts into another bank account, knowing there were insufficient funds to cover the check. This artificially inflated the balance in the checking account at the bank receiving the check because the bank gave immediate credit on deposits. Prosecutors say Lavin then wrote checks on the second account to obtain funds.

Investigators said the check kiting scheme began in 2001 and was not discovered until May 2012, costing the two banks involved (CresCom Bank and Carolina Trust Federal Credit Union) more than $4 million each.

The Myrtle Beach Sun-News reports that Lavin apologized in court Tuesday, saying he began the scheme as a way to make payroll and pay bills at the struggling dealership.