July 23, 2014

Effort fails to get Sunday alcohol sales on ballot in Greenville County

Voters in Greenville County will not be asked this November if they want to allow Sunday alcohol sales.

Earlier this month, Palmetto Restaurant and Ale House Owner David McCraw had gathered nearly 10,000 signatures in 12 days to get the petition approved for November’s ballot.  This was more than the required 7500 signatures needed by July 7.

However, McCraw said the Greenville County Election Commission told him Friday that more than 2,500 of the names on the petition had been disqualified for different reasons.

“They were disqualified for multiple reasons from, number one, not being able read their signature or their actual printed name,” McCraw said.

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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.

SC unemployment rate unchanged for second consecutive month

The state’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate held firm at 5.3 percent in June, reflecting no change since April.  The South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce reports that an estimated 116,000 people were unemployed, showing an increase of 630 people over the month while the number of employed decreased by 847. Over the month, the labor force declined by 217 people to just under 2.2 million.

June’s seasonally adjusted, non-farm payroll employment reported its fourth seasonal employment increase this year with an increase of 4,400 over the month to reach the level of 1.9 million.

The biggest upticks in the state’s job market were in the sectors of Professional and Business Services, Education and Health Services, and Leisure and Hospitality.

Since June 2013, the state’s unemployment rate fell by 2.5 percentage points. More than 35,000 people have found work, and the labor force has decreased by 20,082 people.

Nationally, the unemployment rate declined to 6.1 percent in June from 6.3 percent in May.

Casino ship no longer stranded off Hilton Head

Coast Guard response boats remove passengers from the grounded casino boat Escapade on Wednesday (Image: Coast Guard)

Coast Guard response boats remove passengers from the grounded casino boat Escapade on Wednesday (Image: Coast Guard)

A casino boat that ran aground in South Carolina waters around midnight Wednesday is now back at its home port in Savannah, roughly 36 hours after it became stuck south of Hilton Head Island.

A Coast Guard spokesman confirmed the 174-foot vessel Escapade freed itself under its own power at high tide about 12:45 p.m. Thursday. Petty Officer 3rd Class Anthony Soto said no commercial salvage vessels assisted the crew on Thursday. Several attempts to pull the Escapade out of the sand had failed on Wednesday. No one was injured in the incident.

Soto said two Coast Guard marine inspectors boarded the Escapade after it became free and conducted a damage assessment before the vessel returned to its mooring at Bull River Marina.

118 passengers and crewmembers were brought back to shore by Coast Guard cutters and helicopters on Wednesday, shortly after an effort to tow the boat to deeper water failed. Seven crew members remained on the vessel overnight. Soto said it was not clear if the lack of passengers helped on Thursday.

“It’s difficult to say exactly what the difference was between (Wednesday and Thursday), whether or not the weight of the passengers was a factor,” he said.

Soto said the Coast Guard is still investigating why the vessel became stuck about 1.8 miles north of Tybee Island. Early reports suggested the Escapade crew  reported a malfunction in the ship’s course plotter, a part of its navigation system. The vessel’s parent company Tradewinds Casino Cruise has not responded to requests for comment from numerous media outlets.

MUSC chaplain charged with sex abuse

A chaplain at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston has been arrested and charged with sexually abusing a man when the victim was a teenager.

Gerig Huggins, 50, of Mount Pleasant was charged with ill treatment of a child on Tuesday.

The Charleston Post & Courier reports the victim told police he was assaulted when he was 14-years-old and living in Woodstock, Georgia. The man said the assaults continued when he was a teen in Mount Pleasant. Mount Pleasant Police did not release other details on the allegation.

MUSC’s website says Huggins is one of nine full-time “clinical” chaplains on its staff. The website states Huggins is an Assemblies of God pastor who became a full-time chaplain in 2009.

Huggins was being held in the Charleston County Detention Center on $50,000 bail Wednesday.