Former state Rep. Thad Viers will not learn his punishment for money laundering next week.
Viers had been scheduled for sentencing on Aug. 19, but last week his attorney Trey Cockrell asked the court for more time to discuss his client’s case with federal prosecutors. Judge Bruce Howe Hendricks approved Cockrell’s request on Monday and canceled Viers’ hearing. A new court date has not been set.
A number of the other factors that this Court is required to consider ... are also complex and involve persons and locations outside the local Florence Division [of federal court] or otherwise require additional time to gather.
Trey Cockrell, Thad Viers’ attorney
Cockrell could not immediately be reached for comment, but he said in court papers that the delay would “allow for necessary additional time to narrow the issues between the parties and to prepare adequately for sentencing.” He noted that there are “other factors that this Court is required to consider.”
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Those factors, Cockrell wrote, “involve persons and locations outside the local Florence Division [of federal court] or otherwise require additional time to gather.”
“As the Court is aware, the circumstances of this sentencing of Mr. Viers involve relatively complex aspects of the financial flow of funds and holdings,” Cockrell wrote. “Proper treatment of these financials involved has required additional research.”
A former legislator and one-time frontrunner for the 7th District Congressional seat, Viers pleaded guilty to money laundering in April. A conviction on that charge carries up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of $250,000.
Before his plea, Viers 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 with prosecutors. Had he been convicted of the original 14 charges, Viers faced up to 145 years in prison.
The case against Viers stemmed from allegations that he tried to help law firm client Marlon Weaver hide assets from an insurance company that was trying to collect money on a construction bond.
Weaver pleaded guilty to a felony money laundering charge and in June was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison. He was also ordered to pay $1.2 million in restitution and serve three years of supervised release. Prosecutors asked that his sentence be reduced because of his assistance in other cases.
Weaver admitted he tried to hide money he made from the 2010 sale of Bucksport Marina from an insurance company that had provided a $6 million bond for a road paving project his company was supposed to complete.
Among the assets Weaver pledged as security for the bond was his one-fifth interest in the marina.
Investigators 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.
Prosecutors say Viers knew Weaver was trying to hide the money and helped him form a limited liability corporation that purportedly transferred Weaver’s interest in the marina to his daughters.
An indictment states Viers also made 12 withdrawals totaling $524,000 from a trust account he set up and gave that money to Weaver. Prosecutors say Viers knew that money came from Weaver’s illegal activity related to the marina sale.
They also say Viers lied to an IRS investigator when he said he was not aware that Weaver was trying to hide assets from the insurance company.
“I am criminally responsible because I was willfully blind, deliberately ignorant, and consciously avoided asking questions that any lawyer would ask,” Viers said in a prepared statement released after he pleaded guilty. “The other 13 charges, including lying to a federal agent, fraud, and conspiracy to commit fraud have been dismissed. I did not profit or realize any money from this violation. I take full responsibility for my actions and offer no excuses.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Day has said Viers offered to help prosecutors with other investigations as part of his plea agreement.
Day declined to discuss Viers’ level of cooperation Wednesday.
“I can’t really comment at this point,” he said. “I need to look at it and determine that.”
Although terms are negotiated before a plea agreement is signed, Day said once a pre-sentencing report is completed both prosecutors and the defense have a chance to object to the sentencing recommendations.
“They can say it’s too much time or not enough time,” he said. “We have enhancements that can increase the time or things that can reduce it.”
Day said the latest continuance essentially buys more time for the defense to work with prosecutors.
“It drags out, but it’s not tremendously uncommon for that to happen,” he said. “Weaver took a long time to be done and different reasons come up. So it does happen.”
Viers served in the S.C. House of Representatives from 2003-12. He represented District 68, which includes Socastee. A graduate of Socastee High School and the University of South Carolina law school, Viers was a frontrunner for the open U.S. House District 7 seat in 2012 before withdrawing from the race when he was accused of stalking a former girlfriend.
In recently filed court papers, Viers’ lawyer Cockrell noted that his client is not trying to put off sentencing and has complied with all the requirements of his bond.
Viers could not be reached for comment.