MYRTLE BEACH — Marlon Weaver, a Conway-based construction contractor and owner of Weaver Co. Inc., pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to a felony charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering in an elaborate scheme to hide assets from an insurance company after he failed to complete a road paving project for the S.C. Department of Transportation.
Federal prosecutors dropped six additional felony charges as part of a plea agreement that also calls for the forfeiture of $1.2 million of Weaver’s property and assets – an amount equal to the proceeds from the money laundering scheme, according to the agreement. Prosecutors will recommend a prison sentence of between 37 months and 46 months for Weaver, who initially faced up to 80 years in prison. A judge still must approve the agreement and no sentencing date has been set.
An indictment in the case shows Weaver worked with family members and Archie Evans – a former Conway pastor who has pleaded guilty to orchestrating an unrelated Ponzi scheme – to hide money from Safeco Insurance Co., which provided a surety bond for the paving project on Interstate 95.
The state DOT awarded the contract to Weaver in September 2008, and Weaver provided the insurance company with a list of assets that could be used to reimburse the company in the event of a default. One of those assets was Weaver’s one-fifth interest in a Bucksport marina project owned by Weaver Five LLC.
Weaver’s company started having financial problems about one year after the I-95 project started, according to the indictment, and Weaver asked Safeco for help in paying his subcontractors. By November 2009, Weaver had defaulted on the project’s contract and Safeco was forced to pay suppliers and contractors more than $6 million to complete the work. Weaver’s company closed for good in December 2009.
Weaver started hiding assets in the months after the default, according to prosecutors. Weaver sold his interest in the marina project in early 2010 but created false, backdated documents to make it appear as if his interest had been sold before the default took place, according to the indictment. Weaver then created a limited liability corporation called BEJ LLC “for the sole purpose of retaining and hiding the proceeds” from the sale of his interest in the marina, court records show.
The proceeds from Weaver’s marina sale – totaling $501,000 – were divided into three cashier’s checks issued in the names of Weaver’s daughters and deposited into their bank accounts on Feb. 25, 2010, according to court records. The next day, that money was transferred to a newly opened bank account for BEJ LLC, according to the indictment.
Weaver, over the next several months, withdrew money from the BEJ LLC account in increments below the threshold that would have required the bank to issue a currency transaction report to the federal government, according to the indictment. The money from those transactions was given to Evans, who then deposited the funds into his own bank account. Then, between January 2011 and November 2011, the money was taken from Evans’ account and deposited into a trust account set up at another bank on behalf of Weaver.
Evans, former pastor of Tilly Swamp Baptist Church, pleaded guilty in a separate case this year to mail fraud and structuring financial transactions to evade reporting requirements. Those charges were related to a Ponzi scheme Evans operated that cost church members and others $2.5 million, according to court documents. Evans has not been sentenced for those charges.
The Ponzi scheme Evans operated was called Gold & Silver LLC, which promised investors quarterly interest payments of between 10 percent and 12 percent. Evans either spent or lost the money, but prepared false investment statements to make it appear as if the investors were earning a high rate of interest on their money, according to court records. Weaver was one of the investors in Gold & Silver, according to the asset report he provided to the insurance company.
The road project Weaver’s company was supposed to complete involved concrete patching, asphalt work and bridge approach replacement on a 23-mile stretch of I-95 in Florence and Dillon counties. Weaver remains free on an unsecured $25,000 bond while awaiting sentencing.
Contact DAVID WREN at 626-0281.