Taylor tied to inadequate bank security, 3 deaths

On May 16, 2003, a bank teller and two customers were murdered in a bank owned by Charles Taylor’s holding company. Vulnerable because of several ignored security recommendations, the Blue Ridge Savings Bank branch in Greer, SC was robbed of an estimated $2,000 to $3,000 at 1:30 p.m.

Blue Ridge Savings is a subsidiary of Financial Guarantee, Inc., a company owned by NC Representative Charles Taylor (R-11).

The Greer branch was located in a singlewide trailer on a dead-end road off Interstate 85. Bank employee Sylvia Holtzclaw was working alone the day of the robbery, when customers Maggie and “Eb” Barnes entered. All three were later found dead, shot at close range. No tape was found in the bank's single indoor security camera. Counter to all industry standards, there were no operable outdoor cameras. Since the robbery, the bank has employed full-time guards.

Elizabeth Davis, the Barnes’ daughter, filed a lawsuit against the bank in May 2004 for wrongful death. Specific allegations include claims that the bank failed to locate its Greer bank in a safe location; that it did not provide adequate security measures; that it failed to adequately train employees in security procedures; that it failed to meet federal security requirements; and that it did not take "reasonable measures to discover and deter criminal activity on or around the branch bank location."

The exact language of the complaint, as quoted in the Hendersonville Times-News, alleges

negligence, negligence per se, gross negligence, recklessness, willfulness and wantonness in failing to carry out their duties under the Bank Protection Act to ensure the enactment of a proper security plan for the branch bank, for which the bank's directors are personally liable ... and which contributed to the deaths of Mr. and Mrs. Barnes.

In June, U.S. District Court Judge Henry Herlong, granted an April 27 motion by Elizabeth Davis to amend the civil suit to include a security company, the bank's board of directors and Taylor, who owned a majority of the bank.

In July, Davis was granted a motion to include Taylor in the lawsuit. Taylor, who had personally owned the modular building, has been described by bank colleagues as a “micro-manager” of bank operations. A 2001 zoning permit showed Taylor as the owner. An application filed with the federal Office of Thrift supervision to open the branch office, without naming Taylor, said “an affiliated person” would lease the building to the bank.

On Aug. 25, 2004, a month after the motion was granted to include Taylor in the suit, the case was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.

Holtzclaw, 56, and Mrs. Barnes, 58, were each shot in the head. Mr. Barnes, 62, a long-time University of South Carolina professor, was shot in the chest.

Taylor, whose ownership of the bank has helped to make him one of the wealthiest members of Congress, never has talked publicly about the case.

From the Greenwood Index Journal:

”Eb” Barnes was a professor of physics at USC Spartanburg, (now called USC Upstate). He’d also worked for USC in Greenville. His wife, Maggie, worked with the National Beta Club.

"They were lovely people," said Dottie Bryson, whose son was advised by "Eb" Barnes as a student at Greenville Tech.

Bryson works with senior programs at Greer First Baptist Church, where Holtzclaw was an active member."She was a go-getter. She could get it done, an organizer," Bryson said of her friend. "She worked with the youth on their Valentine's parties, progressive dinners, the autumn festival. She was in charge of getting everything together.

"She worked in the background, so all would be ready. She loved her church. She loved the youth. She loved this community."

partical bibliography

One survivor files wrongful-death lawsuit against bank
May 16, 2004 Spartanburg Herald Journal

MAY 16, 2003 GREER, FBI “wanted” poster

Bank robbery suit may include Taylor Congressman denies negligence in customer deaths
July 16, 2004 Hendersonville Times-News

Bank slaying suit settled
August 26. 2004 Hendersonville Times-News