SLED investigates NMB vacation rental company accused of owing thousands to renters, owners
NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - More than a dozen police reports filed with the North Myrtle Beach police department describe months of unpaid rent and owners owed more than $50,000 from Keye Beach Rentals.
Months after the first reports were filed, the company and its owner, Walter Pigg, are at the center of an ongoing multi-agency investigation.
Condo owners in the Ocean Keyes community said the trouble started in June 2018 after Pigg took over operation of the company. Owners said they weren’t told of the change in management until after it went into effect.
“I do feel like we were taken advantage of here,” Condo owner Dan Smith said.
On Friday, frustrated and confused vacation renters gathered outside the Keye Beach Rental office.
Renters from as far away as Canada, Michigan and New York said they booked and paid for condo units months ago, but on the way to North Myrtle Beach were informed there was no unit available for them.
“We were on our way down and Tuesday night around 11 o’clock we received an email saying, ‘Your reservation has been cancelled. We are no longer doing rentals at Keye Beach Rentals,’" Julie McClure said.
McClure and her husband were just a few of the several people on Friday who said they are owed at least $3,000.
“It’s a significant amount of money to have to write off that way, that somebody stole from you," said Joe and Julie Lippa. "And you’re retired and you can’t recoup that money that quick.”
Condo owners said they are out even more money.
Smith has owned his unit in Ocean Keyes since 2005 and a contract with Keye Beach Rentals for more than six years.
“It went absolutely fine,” he said. “Our contract stipulated you would be paid by the 15th of the following month, so the July rent would come in August 15.”
However, last August, Smith noticed the money for his July renters was never deposited.
After a week of no deposit, he called and emailed the rental office. He said the rental company told him not to worry, they were busy, and the check was on the way.
Smith said after months of calling and emailing without receiving the rent he was owed, he finally flew down to North Myrtle Beach.
“I started personally getting more and more frustrated because I’m calling and often, I’m not even getting a return call because I would get voicemails and the same with the emails, half the emails weren’t returned,” he said.
When he finally confronted Pigg in person, Smith said he only received a check for part of what he is owed. He cancelled his contract with the business but estimates he is still owed $3,000 to $4,000.
“I do feel kind of personally violated here because I do think you do put a level of trust, particularly when you’re a long way away, in a situation like this that people will be on the up and up,” Smith said.
Smith is one of more than a dozen owners who filed police reports with the North Myrtle Beach Police Department.
The reports revealed Pigg owes owners more than $58,000, however the exact total is unknown, because owners are not able to access an online portal that contains monthly rental statements.
“Our money would come in late, if at all, that was after screaming, yelling at him,” said condo owner Debbi Cloninger. “Trips down here, sitting in his office until he got here to demand our money. Money stopped in August.”
Still, after all this, Cloninger said she is still owed $8,000. She said she cancelled her agreement with the company in January but her unit is still listed on VRBO.
Complaints on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) describe similar incidents, including random charges, withheld funds, blocked account and lack of communication.
Individuals call Pigg “deceptive” and a “master scam artist” in BBB complaints.
Keye Beach Rentals has an ‘F’ rating on BBB.
WMBF reached out to Pigg who initially agreed to meet but sent a statement instead.
“My attorney and I are assembling the necessary documents that will clearly show absolutely no wrong doing and it will correct all the untruths that are being put out in the public," he said.
Pigg also said he would be open to show these documents in a meeting in the future.
Smith and other owners said Pigg took over the business in 2018. However, North Myrtle Beach did not issue a business license for Keye Beach Rentals until the end of October.
The South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulations suspended Pigg’s real estate license on December 31, 2018.
Last week, North Myrtle Beach announced a special called city council meeting to determine if the company’s business license should be revoked.
On Monday, the city cancelled the meeting after Pigg voluntarily surrendered his license.
North Myrtle Beach spokesperson Pat Dowling said the city must follow a process to revoke a business license and that process started after the state announced it suspended Pigg’s real estate license.
Dowling said the city, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the South Carolina Department of Revenue are currently conducting a criminal investigation into the company and Pigg.
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) is also assisting with the investigation.
A SLED spokesperson said the case was opened on January 31 for allegations of Breach of Trust after the city’s police department reached out.
Dowling said the city must have a cause to make an arrest and the current investigation will determine if any criminal actions were conducted.
North Myrtle Beach police officers were at the business on Friday to file more police reports and to get out facts to victims involved.
Online Pigg is also listed as the owner for Dream Vacations, a vacation retailer.
WMBF Investigative Reporter Samantha Kummerer found this company operating in Little River, however Horry County said it has no business license on file for Pigg or Dream Vacations.
An employee inside Dream Vacations told WMBF that Pigg was not in the office. Shortly after, Pigg sent an email from the Keye Beach Rentals account, apologizing for not being able to meet.
Before taking over Keye Beach Rentals, Pigg held a property management license with North Myrtle Beach since 2012.
According to licenses, he is listed as the owner for the rental business Myrtle Grand Vacations.
The BBB revoked the company’s accreditation in October after numerous complaints on billing, refunds and customer service. Complaints listed online described similar experiences as those owners in Ocean Keyes have gone through in the last year.
Theresa Siclari was one of the residents who worked with Pigg years ago.
She owns property in North Myrtle Beach and said she hired Pigg around 2015 to rent her home.
She said her house was “totally destroyed” from the woman Pigg rented her home to.
“It would have been totally avoidable if he had done a background check on her,” Siclari said.
She also said she had difficulty in getting in touch with and he refused to speak to her at times.
“He rips you off after the fact. Every month he was just nickel and diming you for money,” Siclari said.
Horry County court records revealed Myrtle Beach Grand owes $7,500 from a 2018 judgement case. Court documents state Myrtle Grand Vacations took control of two rental units but failed to provide any of the fees owed.
Other court cases point to financial complications with the business. The North Village Center filed a lawsuit against the business in 2016 that claimed it owed more than $25,000 in unpaid rent. Another 2018 case stated the business defaulted on a mortgage and owes more than $78,000.
Horry County said it denied a business application for Myrtle Grand Vacations in 2017 due to outstanding accommodations tax payments.
Copyright 2019 WMBF. All rights reserved.