A North Myrtle Beach business owner could face legal action after allegedly embezzling close to $100,000 from clients over the last year, according to multiple property owners and city officials.
Walter Pigg, who owns Keye Beach Rentals in North Myrtle Beach, is currently under investigation after city officials received nearly three dozen complaints outlining Pigg’s alleged misconduct and unethical business practices since purchasing the 55-unit agency located at 601 Hillside Drive last May. Pigg surrendered his business license to the city last Friday.
About a dozen homeowners who rented condos to Keye Beach Rentals told The Sun News how Pigg failed to pay them on time when he first bought the business, and later refused to pay them altogether. Hyung Kim said she hasn’t received a payment since last May, totaling more than $10,000 that is currently owed to her.
“This is ridiculous how he took our money and can just run away,” Kim said.
Homeowners had a litany of complaints, including: Pigg allegedly blocking them from entering a portal overseeing rental activity after they realized units were being double-booked, renters were charged a higher rate, units were rented without notification and often left unclean despite owners being charged for services. Pigg was difficult to contact and would often skip meetings or make excuses for not issuing payment, owners told The Sun News.
“There was shady things going on,” said homeowner Donald Novick said.
While Pigg is currently under investigation by both the city and the S.C. Law Enforcement Division, and had his property manager’s license suspended by the S.C. Real Estate Commission, Pigg’s lawyer Kirk Truslow attested that Pigg has done nothing wrong and those who filed complaints are seeking vengeance.
“He’s trying to figure out what he’s done wrong because we don’t know,” Truslow said. “He just wants to get back to work because he’s lost a lot of customers.”
Truslow said owners expected their payment upon booking, but Pigg would instead pay them after guests checked out.
“We haven’t seen any payment from him for the past six months — and there’s been a long-term renter he put in our condo and has collected the entire almost $9,000 from her and we haven’t seen a penny,” condo owner Howard Pollack said. “Not sure how he and his attorney believe we are mistaken in how he is conducting his business.”
North Myrtle Beach city officials originally scheduled a special meeting on Friday to revoke Pigg’s business license after receiving 32 complaints about his alleged misconduct. The meeting has since been canceled.
North Myrtle Beach Police reports filed in January and February detailed how some vacationers arrived to the area only to find their credit cards were repeatedly charged but their reservation was either canceled, double-booked or the unit was no longer associated with the agency.
Several condo owners also issued complaints with Pigg’s business, signaling a breach of contract.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, owner Marguerite Portagallo allowed a displaced family to stay in her condo rent-free only to discover Pigg had allegedly been charging them rent, which she said he never dispersed to her. Portagallo said Pigg still owes her over $10,000 dating back to May.
Condo owner Lisa Balog, who is reportedly owed $1,650 in rent, said Pigg falsified account documents after making a complaint to North Myrtle Beach Police about not being paid. She, along with other owners, added that they still haven’t received their tax documents after several requests.
The Sun News also found over 40 voice messages from condo owners and renters that were left on Pigg’s business phone demanding payment or tax forms, requesting refunds or an explanation on future bookings. City officials discovered in October that Pigg was operating Keye Beach Rentals without a business license. Pigg was later issued a license in late October.
Despite the mounting evidence, Pigg’s attorney insists this is a scheme cooked up by Ocean Keyes Development, the adjacent real estate agency that sold Keye Beach Rentals to Pigg last May. Truslow said Ocean Keyes wants to take business away from Pigg and an employee encouraged owners to file reports.
Ocean Keyes managing partner Marc Hyman refuted Truslow’s claim. explaining that he learned of the accusations against Pigg last fall from Pigg’s clients.
Hyman said he knew Pigg for many years prior to selling him Keye Beach Rentals and thought he was “an O.K. guy,” even transferring roughly $500,000 in deposits to Pigg. Hyman added that Ocean Keyes has received a lot of backlash from clients after he and other associates referred them to Pigg last year.
“We had a good reputation here and he’s just ruined it,” Hyman said.
“When he (Pigg) came in, we helped in any way we could to get him familiar with the floor plans, with just the community as a whole,” said Jennifer House, broker-in-charge Realtor with Keye Real Estate, which is part of Ocean Keyes Development. “We were shocked over this whole thing. Just shocked, disappointed, like we’ve been taken advantage of.”
While Pigg is barred from conducting any business, some condo owners said Pigg was still showcasing their rentals on the Keye Beach Rental website despite taking their business to another rental agency and changing their locks. Ocean Keyes associates added that Pigg has several units booked through the summer that he no longer manages.
“He’s just luring people in,” condo owner Debbie Cloninger said.