Howie Lavin sentenced to 6.5 years in prison for check kiting scheme

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - The case involving one of the largest bank fraud cases in Myrtle Beach history is one step closer to becoming history.  Howie Lavin, owner of the Lavin Cars dealership, was sentenced Tuesday in federal court to six and a half years in prison.

Lavin was sentenced to 78 months in prison, which was the top of the federal guidelines. He must serve at least 85 percent of that sentence, after which, he will spend five years on supervised release. He is also required to pay $8.5 million in restitution, and is allowed to pay in $500 monthly increments. If Lavin pays just $500 a month, it would take over 1,416 years to pay the full restitution.

In an effort to get Lavin's sentence reduced, his lawyer said Tommy Brittain said, "Judge, you will never have a finer person who has taken this kind of money."

Lavin pleaded guilty back in December to a check kiting scheme that cost Crescom Bank and Carolina Trust Federal Credit Union $4 million apiece.  Lavin floated tens of millions of dollars in deposits from one bank to the other, skimming money each time, according to federal prosecutors.

Using a point system to determine a final sentence, the judge in the case considered Lavin's full cooperation in the investigation along with the fact that this was his first ever criminal offense.  However, the $8 million Lavin stole and his inability to pay any of that money back qualified him for the maximum sentence.

The judge also honored a request to delay sending Lavin to prison for one month so he could give a deposition to lawyers representing a small group of Lavin Cars investors.  They claimed the cars on the Lavin lot were collateral for their investments and are suing Crescom and Carolina Trust for taking the cars as collateral on their banks loses.

"I know I hurt a lot of people; I can't turn back the clock," Lavin said during the sentencing.

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