Karate expert, local businessman sentenced in federal court

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - A Belgian karate expert and a Mount Pleasant businessman were sentenced in federal court Tuesday.

The United States Attorney's Office said 69-year-old Thomas F Truewas sentenced to 108 months in prison and three years of supervised release. His cohort, 40-year-old Gunther Blancke, was sentenced to 24 years in prison and three years of supervised release.

Blancke was also ordered to surrender to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, True previously pleaded guilty on July 23, 2012 to one count of conspiracy to commit extortion and Blancke was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit extortion and on one count of attempted extortion following a three-day trial.

Prosecutors showed that a real estate developer from Greer drove to Mount Pleasant in June 2010 for a closing on a condominium unit.

Before the closing, the developer learned that True had filed a lien on the Mount Pleasant property as well as several other properties owned by the developer. When the developer confronted True about the liens, he was told to go to True's home in Snee Farm to discuss the issue. When the developer went to True's home, the two got into an argument over money that escalated into death threats. When the developer tried to leave, Blancke, a fourth degree black belt and former two-time European martial arts champion, stepped out of his hiding place and knocked the developer to the ground.The developer was then tied to a chair and True told the man he would kill him if the developer told police. Blancke made throat-slitting gestures as well.The developer spat on the wall to leave evidence he had been confined to the closet where the two men left him for at least an hour. When they returned, they forced the developer into an office and to make a phone call to his mother, saying True would be handling the condominium closing.True wrote up a transfer of deed of the property and forced the developer to sign the paperwork under threat of death.{}{}{}{}{}{}{} True also placed a call to 911 claiming that he had met with the developer earlier in the day and that when he came home, he found the man there burglarizing the house. When Mount Pleasant police arrived, True and Blancke gave police their invented story, but said they would not press charges. {}{}{}{}{} A few days later, the real estate developer teamed up with the FBI and set up a meeting with True in which he paid $200,000 for the condo unit. After the meeting, True was arrested. Blancke was arrested later the same day in Florida.{}{}{}{}{}{}{} The case was investigated by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorneys Dean H. Secor and M. Rhett DeHart of the Charleston office prosecuted the case.