MYRTLE BEACH — Duwayne Woods – who evaded federal investigators for years after stealing $2.2 million in deposits from a pair of North Myrtle Beach condominium projects – will spend the next 41 months in prison, according to a sentence handed down Wednesday in Florence.
Woods, 70, was sentenced on one felony charge of wire fraud related to sales at the Bahama Island and Crystal Palace condo projects. He also will spend three years on supervised release and must pay $733,766 in restitution. Judge Terry Wooten divided the $2.2 million between Woods and the condo developers, Tommy Hix and Jeff Shoup.
All told, investors lost $5.2 million worth of deposits on the two unbuilt projects. Hix and Shoup previously were sentenced for their roles in the scheme and must repay $3 million of investors’ money in addition to their one-third share of the money in Woods’ case.
Woods pleaded guilty to the wire fraud charge in March and had been held at the Florence County Detention Center. It is not clear where he will be sent to serve his prison sentence. Prosecutors dropped a second felony charge in exchange for Woods’ guilty plea. Woods had faced a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison followed by three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.
One of the conditions of Woods’ guilty plea was that he help investigators locate the investors’ missing funds. However, Bill Day – the assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case – said Woods was not forthcoming with information.
“He agreed to cooperate so we interviewed him and polygraphed him, but we weren’t able to find anything,” Day said. “It was frustrating for me and for the judge.”
The FBI spent years investigating the condo scandal and hunting for Woods, who disappeared with the money in 2007. Woods, who had been rumored to have fled the country, was arrested in San Diego last year.
Hix, 52, worked with investigators to help locate Woods and was released from prison on Oct. 4. Shoup, 48, is scheduled to be released from prison in December 2017.
Hix and Shoup solicited deposits for their unbuilt condo projects during the real estate boom starting in 2004. The developers were supposed to keep the deposits in a trust account but instead put the money in a regular bank account to which both men had access.
When financing for the condo projects fell through, Hix and Shoup turned to Woods for help because Woods said he could fund construction through a foreign bond owned by his Atlewa Trust company. Hix and Shoup transferred the deposits to Woods, who eventually sent some of the money back to the developers while keeping the rest. Atlewa Trust turned out to be a shell corporation with no assets.
Hix and Shoup refunded some of the depositors’ money but spent much of it on personal expenses, salaries, travel and for unrelated projects.
Bahama Island was supposed to be a condo and marina project along the western bank of the Intracoastal Waterway while Crystal Palace was supposed to be an oceanfront condo tower.
Contact DAVID WREN at 626-0281.