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Panthers owner David Tepper scrutinized in criminal probe
Panthers owner David Tepper: David Tepper, the owner of the Carolina Panthers, and his real estate company are being looked at by the police to see if they used any public money wrongly when they tried and failed to build a practice facility for the NFL team in South Carolina. The York County Sheriff’s Office said state agents and local prosecutors are aiding its investigation, and that the probe does not mean that any crime happened.
“An investigation is just a look into something, and it shouldn’t lead anyone to think that someone did something wrong,” York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson and Solicitor Kevin Brackett said Thursday night in a joint statement that named Tepper and GT Real Estate, the company that was set up to oversee the construction project.
Tepper’s company denied any criminal wrongdoing and said that the timing of the announcement might be a way to stop the team from making a deal with York County to pay back more than $21 million, which is about the same as the amount of sales tax money the project got to fix up the roads around the facility.
“This is a straightforward commercial matter that is being fully resolved. The underlying disputes arise under contracts that were jointly negotiated by the parties and are publicly available. The funds paid by the county were handled consistent with the terms of those contracts,” the statement from Tepper’s GT Real Estate said.
Tepper, one of the NFL’s wealthiest owners, and the Panthers unveiled plans for an $800 million practice facility, team offices, sports treatment center, hotels, and entertainment near Rock Hill in 2019.
Local and South Carolina authorities applauded the investment, offering incentives and savoring the opportunity to take a piece of the NFL club away from North Carolina and Charlotte, where the team plays approximately 25 miles (40 kilometers).
However, less than two years later, Tepper’s business abruptly halted construction on the complex before the steel superstructure was completed, declaring bankruptcy. Work on the state-promised interstate interchange continues, and Tepper’s company is attempting to sell land in the busy, growing region.
Tepper’s firm attacked Rock Hill for failing to issue bonds, as well as the city and other agencies for failing to deliver on funds and other pledges. York County and Rock Hill have refuted those accusations, and the extent to which Tepper’s corporation is liable is being debated in federal bankruptcy court.
York County announced shortly after the bankruptcy that Tepper’s company took $21 million of sales tax money that was supposed to be spent on roads and spent it on a “failed vanity project.” “Rather than cover the ballooning project budget themselves, the Tepper Defendants took money from York County and its taxpayers,” the county said in a lawsuit.
In a complaint, the county claimed that “rather than covering the growing project budget themselves, the Tepper Defendants misappropriated money from York County and its taxpayers.”
The criminal inquiry came just days after the Panthers and York County announced a settlement in their lawsuit. The settlement had not been submitted in court or approved by a judge as of Friday morning.
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