Crime & Public Safety

Ex-Sea Pines VP accused of stealing $1.5M from Hilton Head resort has plea deal, docs show

A former Sea Pines Resort vice president agreed late last month to plead guilty to two felony charges after he was accused of stealing $1.5 million from the south end resort, federal court documents say. In the plea agreement, Jeffrey Kruse said he would pay an undetermined amount of restitution and acknowledged he may serve jail time.

The charges stem from a lawsuit filed by the Sea Pines Resort in March 2018.

The lawsuit accused Kruse of submitting fake invoices to Sea Pines and making fraudulent payments to Destination Hospitality Group, a shell company he created. The payments were over at least 12 years, totaling $1,483,467.56, while he was in charge of food and beverage for Sea Pines Resort, according to the suit.

In August 2018, the FBI confirmed it was investigating the case.

Court documents say that between about March 2006 and December 2017, Kruse created “false and fraudulent invoices” on his home computer for services from his shell company for items such as chair covers, centerpieces and accessories to be used for special events — weddings, the PGA Tour RBC Heritage and others.

He then “personally approved” the fraudulent documents before delivering them to Sea Pines’ accounting department, which paid and mailed checks to a P.O. box controlled by Kruse, the documents say.

In one instance, Kruse deposited a $15,144 check from Sea Pines into his shell company’s account, the documents say.

On Sept. 30, Kruse signed an agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to plead guilty to charges of mail fraud and making “monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity.”

The first charge carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine up to $250,000, followed by three years of probation. The second charge is punishable with up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine up to $250,000, followed by three years of probation.

The agreement also says Kruse will help identify victims and pay restitution to each one “who may have been harmed by his scheme or pattern of criminal activity.”

Kruse has already sold two of his Hilton Head properties to help pay back the money: a Port Royal Plantation home and a condominium in Palmetto Dunes. Sea Pines received $600,000 and $185,000 from the sales, respectively, according to previous reporting.

He will also forfeit other property and assets.

The agreement is not binding until Kruse enters a guilty plea to the court.

No court hearings have been scheduled yet, Lance Crick, first assistant U.S. attorney for the District of South Carolina, told the Island Packet on Monday.

Lana Ferguson has reported on a smorgasbord of news for The Island Packet & Beaufort Gazette since June 2018. Before coming to the Lowcountry, she worked for publications in her home state of Virginia and graduated from the University of Mississippi, where she was editor of the college’s daily newspaper.
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