South Carolina

Lawmakers pursue bill to ban sexual predators from locksmith industry

Panteleimon N. Spirakis, 55, of Myrtle Beach briefly appeared at a bond hearing in Conway on March 4. He remains jailed on child sexual abuse charges.
Panteleimon N. Spirakis, 55, of Myrtle Beach briefly appeared at a bond hearing in Conway on March 4. He remains jailed on child sexual abuse charges. jlee@thesunnews

The arrest of a local locksmith and registered sex offender on charges of molesting two children has prompted state lawmakers to begin drafting legislation to regulate the lock and key industry.

State Sen. Greg Hembree and Rep. Greg Duckworth of North Myrtle Beach said Monday they plan to introduce companion measures in both chambers to address the lack of business requirements for locksmiths, which the recent arrest of Panteleimon “Peter” Spirakis brought to light.

Spirakis operated Phil’s Lock and Key in North Myrtle Beach until he was charged March 3 on several counts of sexually abusing two four-year old children.

Citing “moral turpitude,” the City of North Myrtle Beach suspended Spirakis’ business licenses pending a special meeting called by the council this week. However, Spirakis voluntarily surrendered the business and professional licenses on Monday.

“We put a lot of trust in these people who are in the locksmith business, obviously because they literally hold the lock and key to our lives,” Duckworth said. “When you’re in a situation where people are putting their trust in you with the safety of their livelihood, their possessions, their wealth, that’s pretty important.”

The revelation that Spirakis has twice before been convicted of sex offenses against minors in the last decade prompted calls from area locksmiths for the enactment of new business regulations that could include background checks for professionals in their industry.

We put a lot of trust in these people who are in the locksmith business, obviously because they literally hold the lock and key to our lives.

State Rep. Greg Duckworth

Pete Bourey, a locksmith with Eastway Lock and Key in Myrtle Beach, told The Sun News that requiring background checks would weed out those with felonies and maintain the public’s trust with the industry.

Only 15 states regulate the business, and Duckworth said they don’t want to rush the process, but will reach out to locksmiths and their representative associations to determine what should be included in the legislation.

“We don’t want to be reactionary, but we want to respond to this and be grounded with good knowledge of what’s best for the business,” Duckworth said. “We don’t want to create more problems than are necessary.”

Hembree said it will take a few weeks to draft the bill, and with only two months left in the legislative session, he said it would take tremendous momentum spurred by Spirakis’ case to push the measure through both chambers before the legislature adjourns.

We don’t want to be reactionary, but we want to respond to this and be grounded with good knowledge of what’s best for the business.

State Rep. Greg Duckworth

Hembree expects the House and Senate bills will get a lot of support, particularly within the Horry County delegation.

“This is a terrible situation,” Hembree said.

Spirakis began working as a locksmith in 2002. He was convicted twice for sex crimes involving young teens in 2005 and 2008.

When Hembree served as Horry County solicitor from 1999 through 2012, his office prosecuted Spirakis on those charges.

Audrey Hudson: 843-444-1765, @AudreyHudson

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