Criminal charges against former state legislator Thad Viers and a Conway man accused of hiding assets from his share of the sale of Bucksport Marina to Grand Strand Water & Sewer Authority aren’t expected to have any impact on a proposed industrial park at the site along the Waccamaw River.
Fred Richardson, the authority’s executive director, told The Sun News on Monday that the authority is certain it has clear title to the marina property, which it purchased in February 2010 for $3.5 million from Weaver Five LLC.
Richardson said the industrial park — which still needs approval from state and federal environmental regulators — is moving forward, albeit slowly.
“The [U.S.] Corps of Engineers made some comments on the proposal we submitted, and we’ve responded to their comments,” Richardson said. “Now, we’re waiting to hear back from them.”
The industrial park’s review is running parallel to criminal charges against one of the marina’s sellers.
Marlon Weaver — one of the five brothers that make up Weaver Five LLC — has pleaded guilty in federal court to felony money laundering in a scheme to hide assets from Safeco Insurance Co. of America, which provided a bond for a road paving project Weaver’s company was supposed to complete. Among the assets Weaver pledged as security for the bond was his one-fifth interest in the marina.
A federal indictment charges Weaver with back-dating documents to make it appear as if he had transferred his interest in the marina to his daughters prior to his company’s default on the road paving project, which ultimately cost Safeco $6 million.
A sentencing date for Weaver has not been scheduled.
Thad Viers, a former member of the S.C. House of Representatives and a one-time front-runner for this area’s seat in the U.S. Congress, helped Weaver create a limited liability corporation called BEJ LLC that purportedly transferred Weaver’s interest in the marina to his daughters. Viers is the registered agent for the corporation, according to the S.C. Secretary of State.
Viers — whose license to practice law was suspended in 2012 for unrelated charges — was indicted earlier this month on felony charges including money laundering and lying to an Internal Revenue Service investigator. Viers has not entered a plea and is scheduled for an arraignment hearing on Aug. 28 in Florence.
State records show BEJ LLC was created in January 2010 — one month after Weaver’s construction company went out of business, leaving Safeco to fund the paving project. The marina sale took place one month after the corporation was formed.
Weaver sent the phony corporate documents to Safeco in an attempt to keep the money he made off the marina sale, according to court documents. However, Weaver never filed those papers with the Horry County Register of Deeds, which means they won’t cloud the authority’s title to the marina property.
Weaver and Viers then laundered the marina money through a series of bank deposits and withdrawals that took place between February 2010 and October 2011, according to court documents, ultimately winding up in a trust account that Viers had created for Weaver.
Prosecutors will recommend a prison sentence of between 37 months and 46 months for Weaver, who initially faced up to 80 years in prison before signing a plea agreement.
Viers, who represented the Socastee area of Horry County in the state legislature from 2002-12, is facing 14 felony charges that carry a combined maximum prison sentence of 145 years. Viers has not responded to requests for comment.
Meanwhile, the water and sewer authority has made some changes to its industrial park application to compromise with environmental groups that are opposed to the project. Richardson said the authority has dropped plans for a trestle in wetlands near the river that would have been used to load and unload bulk cargo. The authority also is proposing what it terms a less damaging form of dredging at the property.
There are about 195 acres of developable property on the tract. Of that amount, the authority proposes leasing 141 acres to industry such as ship builders – in parcels ranging from 10 acres to 36 acres – with the remaining land used for a marine common area and stormwater retention.
The site currently consists of the marina, a restaurant, convenience store and campground.
The area where the industrial park would be built is mostly undeveloped, with much of the surrounding property either state or federally protected lands and private property under conservation easements. Environmentalists say they are concerned about the impact to those properties from both the construction and operation of the park.
Nancy Cave, north coast director of the S.C. Coastal Conservation League, said she also is opposed to the project because there are no specifics about the businesses that would locate there and the proposal does not include a mitigation plan to compensate for impacts to natural resources.