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Pawleys Island contractor connected to Viers case gets year-long prison sentence

The Pawleys Island contractor who helped federal prosecutors build a money laundering case against former state Rep. Thad Viers received a prison sentence of 12 months and one day, authorities said Friday.

Marlon Weaver, 55, was sentenced after prosecutors asked that his punishment be reduced because of his assistance in other cases, according to a news release from the office of U.S. District Attorney Bill Nettles. Weaver, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder money, was also ordered to pay $1.2 million in restitution and serve three years of supervised release.

Viers, 37, awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to a federal money laundering charge that carries up to 10 years in prison.

The former legislator and one-time front-runner for the 7th District Congressional seat was facing more than a dozen charges in connection with alleged racketeering-related financial transactions and lying to the IRS. All other counts are being dismissed as part of a plea deal Viers reached with prosecutors in April.

Viers likely won’t know his fate until later this summer. Officials have not finished a pre-sentencing report and sentencing will not take place until at least 35 days after that document is prepared, said Viers’ lawyer Trey Cockrell.

“He’s doing OK,” Cockrell said of his client. “Obviously, he’s anxious. ... There’s some uncertainty.”

Prosecutors say Viers, a former lawyer, helped Weaver hide assets from an insurance company that was trying to collect money on a construction bond.

Weaver owned a construction company in Conway and in 2008 his firm received a contract from the S.C. Department of Transportation for a paving project on I-95.

As part of the deal, Weaver’s company had to supply a performance and payment bond along with an indemnity agreement. SafeCo Insurance Company of America provided surety on the bond and required that Weaver reimburse the insurance company if SafeCo suffered any losses. One of the assets Weaver put up was his investment in a company, Gold & Silver LLC, and his one-fifth interest in the Bucksport Marina.

In November 2009, a contractor for SCDOT notified Weaver and SafeCo that Weaver’s company was in default and SafeCo would be forced to pay about $6 million to the transportation agency.

Prosecutors say Weaver back-dated 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.

Weaver hired Viers to represent him in the civil case SafeCo filed against him. Prosecutors contend Viers knew Weaver was trying to hide assets from SafeCo.

On Dec. 1, 2009, Weaver and Viers signed a contract that listed a nonrefundable retainer fee of $500,000, officials said. Weaver gave Viers the money in two cashier’s checks, one of which was written for $490,000 and the other for $10,000.

Prosecutors say only the $10,000 sum was the retainer fee; Weaver wanted to conceal the other money from SafeCo.

Officials say Viers deposited the $490,000 check into his operating account and then immediately wrote a check for $400,000 to Archie Evans Ministries, which was run by then Baptist minister Archie Evans. That money was for a secret investment in another Evans’ enterprise, Gold & Silver LLC., according to public records. That investment company turned out to be a Ponzi scheme that cost investors, including some of Evans’ parishioners at his Conway church, about $3.7 million.

The Ponzi scheme led to Evans’ arrest and conviction on charges of mail fraud and structuring financial transactions to evade reporting requirements banks must follow for deposits exceeding $10,000.

After Viers’ retainer and Weaver’s secret $400,000 investment, that left $90,000, which officials say Viers deposited in an account for his congressional campaign.

“Viers was running for election for a seat in the United States House of Representatives, and wanted his competitors to believe that he had a lot of support so they would drop out of the race,” the release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. “After earning approximately $30,000 in legal fees, Viers returned the remainder of the money to Weaver.”

Viers eventually withdrew from the race when he was charged with harassing a former girlfriend.

Overall, prosecutors say Weaver hid $1.2 million from SafeCo, which ultimately lost more than $7 million from issuing bonds to his company.

Viers could not be reached for comment Friday.

Contact CHARLES D. PERRY at 626-0218 or on Twitter @TSN_CharlesPerr.

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