S.C. Sen. Ray Cleary, R-Murrells Inlet, and others involved in the operation of Fontinello's restaurant have been named in a complaint that accuses them of stealing property from the business.
Gary Roberts, one of the members of an LLC formed to operate Fontinello's in Murrells Inlet, filed a report with the Georgetown County Sheriff's office last Thursday accusing Cleary and three others of selling property involved in a lien.
Roberts said in the report that he, Cleary and two others had formed an LLC to operate Fontinello's in September 2010.
Roberts said a month later that "he was forced by Raymond Cleary to sell 15 percent of his partnership to Lisa Cleary," Ray Cleary's wife, leaving him with 10 percent of the corporation, according to the report.
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Last month the partners decided to close the business, Roberts stated in the report.
He said the other partners began removing the inventory from the property, which they were not allowed to do because it was under a Uniform Commercial Code property lien agreement with First Federal Savings and Loan.
Roberts said he had previously provided the information about the property agreement to all the partners and warned them that the items were part of the lien, and reminded them of it again as they removed property.
Cleary said in a telephone interview on Tuesday that he sold his share of the LLC to his wife in November and he was no longer involved in the LLC.
The senator said when he and the other partners got involved in the restaurant, Roberts signed documents pledging all of the inventory of the restaurant to the LLC.
Cleary said it was understood that if the business did not succeed, the partners would be able to sell the inventory to make back some of their investment.
He said the only exemption Roberts made to that was a baby grand piano he owned.
Cleary said Roberts also removed items from the restaurant when it went out of business.
"When Gary Roberts realized the business was going under ... that's when he got vindictive," Cleary said.
He said he thinks the allegations are an attempt by Roberts "to damage my reputation."
Cleary said he believes, if anything, this could be a civil matter to be worked out with the members of the LLC.
Since he is no longer a member of the LLC, there is no reason to involve him in the complaint, he said.Roberts said Lisa Cleary called him and admitted taking the items. He said he told her the items she had taken were under a UCC agreement with the bank and Lisa Cleary said "their UCC wasn't worth the paper it was written on."
Roberts said in the report that on March 6 he was told all the partners were meeting at the restaurant to discuss the situation and he went there to meet with them.
At that meeting, Roberts said he told the partners they had committed a crime by taking and selling the property.
According to the report, Roberts said Cleary told him to get out of the building and approached him with a clenched fist.