Companies owned by Bluffton man under investigation owe local businesses

mmcnab@beaufortgazette.comJuly 20, 2013 

A Bluffton businessman being investigated by the S.C. Attorney General's Office for alleged securities fraud failed to pay several local companies for work they had done for his businesses, according to court records.

His former business manager also said that Peter Iodice was forced to resign as head of various companies he owned, including Compass Energy Holdings, because he mismanaged them and failed to pay contractors.

Compass Energy, which seeks acquisitions of gas stations along the East Coast, including some in Beaufort County, had sold $2 million worth of stock when it was ordered to stop selling shares in February, according to the S.C. Attorney General's Securities Division. The division said that, among other possible violations, Iodice failed to disclose to investors that he was convicted of fraud in 2007.

Iodice also was president of Travel Center Partners, which operated several convenience stores and fast-food restaurants in the Lowcountry and Georgia, according to Robert Nash, whom Iodice hired to manage his companies. Nash, of New York, is vice chairman of Artemis Acquisition Corp., the parent company of Travel Center Partners.

According to records at the Beaufort County Courthouse, thousands of dollars worth of liens have been placed on Iodice's companies for nonpayment to local businesses.

Bolt Electric placed a lien on the Ultimate Car Wash on Plantation Park Drive in Bluffton for $7,500 owed for installing a plug-in electric charging station there in March, according to Bolt co-owner Laura Reid. Travel Center Partners turned control of the gas station back to its original owner last month, according to Nash.Residential Electric Services and the William-Ryan Co. also took legal action after Iodice failed to pay for electrical work at the former Arby's restaurant in Bluffton, which Iodice planned to turn into his corporate offices. Bluffton attorney R. Tabor Vaux Jr. said the electric companies performed $7,560 worth of work that was finished March 19. Vaux said he filed a lien in early May.

Beaufort-based Southern Carpet Wholesale installed carpet at the proposed corporate office March 26 and is still owed $6,555, according to John Kraft, the carpet company's manager.

Nash said many more are owed money and have received bad checks from Iodice. Iodice's bad checks have cost thousands in bank fees charged to the company, including $11,000 in fees in April alone, Nash said.

Nash said he joined Iodice's companies in 2010 as vice chairman of Artemis Acquisition Corp., the parent organization. He said he didn't find out about Iodice's criminal background until more than a year later and about a month before he and Iodice rang the bell at the New York Stock Exchange together.

Iodice was convicted in 2007 in South Carolina for selling a stake in a car dealership without authority.

On Feb. 25, 2013, the Attorney General's Office said Iodice and Compass Energy Holdings had failed to tell investors about that conviction.

Nash and George Heffernan of Myrtle Beach also were listed in the order as not being properly registered to sell securities in South Carolina. In 2007, Heffernan was barred for life by the Attorney General's Office from selling securities in the state.

Iodice and Compass Energy are still under investigation, according to the S.C. Attorney General's Office.

Nash said he stuck with Artemis because he believed that Iodice wanted to put his criminal past behind him. Instead, the company and its subsidiaries sank, and Iodice refused to reveal financial data, including bank account statements, Nash said.

"We never got any of the documents, and he won't give them up. And we're a public company," Nash said. "Imagine that."

Less than a year after Travel Center Partners grew to 10 stores, eight were back in the hands of their original owners after the company defaulted on lease payments to the owners. A store in Bloomingdale, Ga., is set to be liquidated, Nash said.

Only the Dairy Queen in Bluffton still remains under Travel Center Partners control. Nash said the Dairy Queen was acquired by the company as a planned launching pad to operate more franchises along the East Coast, but the restaurant will soon be returned to the previous owners after Travel Center Partners makes two more payments to them.

In June, Nash said he forced Iodice to resign from Artemis Acquisition Corp. Nash remains vice chairman of Artemis and agreed to allow one of Iodice's relatives to serve as a vice chairman, as a condition of Iodice's resignation, he said.

Attempts Friday to reach Iodice for comment were unsuccessful.

S.C. Attorney General's Office spokesman Mark Powell said Friday no new information was available about the Iodice investigation.

Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.

Related content:

Bluffton businessman investigated by state attorney general for selling company stock, July 11, 2013

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