Problem paver, a "shameless swindler", goes to prison

A notorious scam artist who has targeted consumers around the Grand Strand and Pee Dee will be out of the business of conning senior citizens for at least a couple of years.

Tommy Clack, 40, was sentenced to two years in prison and 5 months probation Wednesday for contracting and home improvement violations in Anne Arundel County, Maryland.

Judge Paul Hackner also ordered Clack to pay more than $63,000 in restitution to his Maryland victims.

During the sentencing hearing Wednesday, Hackner referred to Clack as a "shameless swindler" and said he had never seen "such a pathological liar" in all his years on the bench.

Clack is known for overcharging and doing shoddy work. Prosecutors say he would show up at a homeowner's door, offering a great deal to pave the customer's driveway and then cash the check before the victim realized that Clack's offer was a scam.

Clack provided Maryland authorities with addresses in Myrtle Beach and Annapolis, MD. Over the years, Clack has been arrested in both Carolinas and Florida, as well as Maryland.

Last month, Clack pleaded guilty to one count of obtaining goods under false pretenses and three counts of swindling in a Florence County courtroom.

That plea was the result of a 2009 case, in which Clack swindled four people in Florence County out of $90,000. He did the paving work, but it was not to the standard that he and the customers had agreed. Prosecutors brought in a civil engineer who said the work was shoddy at best.

Circuit Judge William Seals sentenced Clack to five years probation in that case.

Sara Quinto of Green Sea had a run-in with Clack in July, 2009.

She said he got $1,500 dollars of her money for doing some shoddy work on her driveway and would have gotten another $15,000 if she hadn't stopped payment on the check.

"Luckily, I gave him a check on a bank in Texas and this gave me at least 4 days to research him," Quinto said.

Quinto said Clack is a smooth talker who'll tell you a story about having leftover asphalt from another job nearby, so he'll make you a good deal to get rid of it.

He pressures you to do the job right away, she said, then does more work than you wanted, inflates the price, and does substandard work.

Clack was banned from doing residential work in North Carolina.

Horry County Solicitor Greg Hembree said that state has a law allowing the attorney general to enjoin, or stop, scam artists like Clack from doing business. South Carolina does not.

Hembree said South Carolina's system is reactive and prosecutors are often hamstrung in preventing scam artists from ripping off somebody new.

"There's no question we have some room for improvement in our consumer protection area," said Hembree. "We're a very business friendly state and that's a good thing in many ways, but it can be taken advantage of by unscrupulous people who are thieves that use business like an armed robber uses a gun."

Quinto wants a tougher law.

"What do we need to do? If I need to write letters, if I need to campaign, I would like to know."

Hembree advises consumers, before you give money to someone who shows up at your door, check with the Better Business Bureau first, and always remember that if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.