Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper and his real estate company, GT Real Estate, are under criminal investigation for possible misuse of public funds after failing to build a practice facility for the team in South Carolina, per a report from The Charlotte Observer.
In 2019, Tepper and the Panthers announced that they planned to build an $800 million practice facility in Rock Hill, S.C. that would include team offices, a sports medicine complex, hotels and entertainment.
Less than two years into the project, Tepper's company stopped construction on the facility and declared bankruptcy. Tepper's company is now trying to sell the land while the state continues construction on an interstate interchange.
On Thursday, the York County Sheriff's Office announced the probe into Tepper and his company. York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson and Solicitor Kevin Brackett did note that the investigation does not necessarily mean a crime was committed.
"An investigation is simply an inquiry and should not create any inference that wrongdoing has been committed by any party," Tolson and Brackett said in a joint statement.
Tepper's company denied misusing public funds and said in a statement that it abided by the terms of the contract with York County.
"This is a straightforward commercial matter that is being fully resolved" GT Real Estate said in a statement. "The underlying disputes arise under contracts that were jointly negotiated by the parties and are publicly available. The funds paid by the county were handled consistent with the terms of those contracts."
After Tepper's company declared bankruptcy, York County filed a lawsuit against the Panthers, alleging that the company took $21 million that was supposed to go toward roads.
"Rather than cover the ballooning project budget themselves, the Tepper Defendants took money from York County and its taxpayers," York County said in its lawsuit.
Just days before the York County Sheriff's Office announced its probe into Tepper and GT Real Estate, the Panthers and the county announced that they had settled the lawsuit. The team will reportedly repay $21 million to York County, but the settlement has yet to be approved by a judge.