Charleston event planner pleads no contest to fraud, breach of trust
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- A local wedding planner pleaded no contest Thursday to fraud and breach of trust charges.
Robert Lawson Smith's plea came nearly five months after he was arrested and accused of using a client's credit card to pay off personal debts.
According to Smith's attorney, David Aylor, Smith -- who also goes by the name Lawson Roberts -- pleaded no contest to one count of financial transaction card fraud over $500 and one county of breach of trust with fraudulent intent.
Aylor said Smith was sentenced to three years imprisonment on a suspended sentence and two years of probation.
According to police, the victim told police that she hired Smith under the business name White Tuxedo Productions to plan her wedding. She said she paid Smith a $2,500 "retainer fee to secure his services" and was told "all charges would have to be approved by them (the clients)."
The victim then claims that they authorized charges totaling $63,000 to pay for the wedding.
"He used our money that he said he was paying our vendors with, to pay a past debts that he had in Charleston from two to three years prior to us meeting him," said a former client of Roberts', Wendy Shearer.
Smith said at the time of his arrest that no fraud had occurred. Roberts said it's an industry standard for the wedding planner to charge the clients credit card on the clients behalf to pay the vendors. He said the Shearer's signed a contract authorizing the payment.
Smith's website, LawsonRoberts.com, claims Smith worked with celebrity clients including "Ryan Gosling, Gena Rowlands, Nick Nolte, B.B. King, Michelle Branch, Randy Jones, The Dave Matthews Band, Heath Ledger, Reese Witherspoon, Elizabeth Taylor, Bruce Willis, Demi Moore, Tom Hanks, Patrick Swayze, Barbara Streisand and many others."
This isn't the first time Smith has run into trouble with the law.
According to the State Law Enforcement Division, he was arrested in 2006 for crimes against a federally chartered financial institution, which constitutes a felony. He was also charged with check fraud in 2009 and 2012.