Golf

Two former executives of Chinese-owned FGI golf company arrested for embezzlement

The Founders Group International flag flies along with the U.S. flag at Pine Lakes Country Club in Myrtle Beach in July 2017. Pine Lakes is one of 22 courses FGI owns and operates on the Grand Strand.
The Founders Group International flag flies along with the U.S. flag at Pine Lakes Country Club in Myrtle Beach in July 2017. Pine Lakes is one of 22 courses FGI owns and operates on the Grand Strand. jblackmon@thesunnews.com

Former Founders Group International chief executive officer Rick Taylor and chief financial officer Tommy Smothers were arrested Thursday for embezzlement.

They are accused of stealing more than $245,000 from FGI through checks fraudulently written for their benefit from early January through early March 2017. They were fired from the company in June 2017.

FGI is owned by Chinese investors, and owns and operates 22 Grand Strand golf courses as well as numerous other properties, including 29.1 acres of oceanfront land in Myrtle Beach that is earmarked to include a luxury high-rise hotel.

According to arrest warrants and a Myrtle Beach Police report, Taylor and Smothers are accused of being entrusted with signing checks linked to company accounts and issuing checks totaling more than $245,000 to themselves or for their benefit without authorization.

The warrant alleges fake invoices were created to conceal the theft, and that the two former executives claimed they were told they could take the money, but managing partner Dan Liu and other senior staff members did not corroborate their claim.

Smothers and Taylor are being charged with breach of trust with fraudulent intent with a value of $10,000 or more, and jail records show they were released Thursday without payment on personal recognizance bonds.

Smothers’ attorney, Kirk Truslow, said, “It is unfortunate that a single charge against my client has arisen from this debacle, however, as it has, we are fully prepared to defend my client’s good name.”

Taylor did not return text or voice messages Thursday.

Taylor was the general manager of Classic Golf Group, which operated the first three area courses purchased by FGI in September 2014 – Burning Ridge, Indian Wells and Founders Club at Pawleys Island – and was retained by FGI as a regional manager.

He became CEO/general manager and essentially replaced Tom Plankers in January 2017 after Plankers was let go as the company’s vice president/GM.

Smothers, who is also a former Classic Golf Group GM, was at least the third CFO hired by FGI since its formation in 2014.

FGI said through LHWH Advertising and Public Relations, which represents the company, that it would not comment on ongoing legal matters.

FGI is in the midst of internal strife as Xian ‘Nick’ Dou, who is a 10 percent partner in FGI and helped Liu purchase the 22 courses and other properties, has an ongoing lawsuit against Liu, FGI and FGI subsidiary companies that accuses Liu of misappropriating FGI funds.

Liu has countered in court filings with claims that Dou stole from the company, and both have denied the allegations.

In addition, Plankers, who was 71 at the time of his termination, has an age discrimination lawsuit against FGI, and Liu’s U.S. immigration status is pending.

Founders Group International’s courses

Horry County

Aberdeen Country Club

Burning Ridge Golf Club

Colonial Charters Golf Club

Grande Dunes Resort Course

Indian Wells Golf Club

International World Tour Golf Links

Long Bay Club

Myrtlewood Palmetto

Myrtlewood PineHills

Myrtle Beach National

West

Myrtle Beach National SouthCreek

Myrtle Beach National King’s North

Pine Lakes Country Club

River Hills Golf & Country Club

Wild Wing Plantation

Georgetown County

TPC Myrtle Beach (parts in both counties)

Founders Club at Pawleys Island

Litchfield Country Club

Pawleys Plantation

River Club

Tradition Club

Willbrook Plantation

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