COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) –State lawmakers might change South Carolina’s law next year that requires a national and state criminal background check to get a real estate license, after Todd Kohlhepp was able to get a license despite a kidnapping conviction in Arizona.
They passed a law in 2014 requiring background checks, but Kohlhepp got his license in 2006, and the law is not retroactive and does not require agents to pass a background check when they renew their licenses every two years.
Sen. Ronnie Cromer, R-Prosperity, sponsored the law two years ago. He said lawmakers talked at the time about making it retroactive, or at least requiring a background check at renewal, but says there was opposition. But he says lawmakers might now try again next year because of Kohlhepp’s current case.
The state’s real estate license application does ask whether an applicant has been convicted of a felony. Kohlhepp did check the “yes” box and attached a letter explaining what happened. But his explanation doesn’t match court records in Arizona.
He said that, when he was a “15-year-old child,” he had a verbal argument with his girlfriend. He said he had a gun with him because it was a bad area of town, but that his girlfriend never even saw the gun. But her parents had been looking for her and couldn’t find her, and, since he was a minor in possession of a firearm, and because he told her she couldn’t leave while they talked things out, he ended up being charged with kidnapping. He says police at the time were really cracking down on minors with guns, he served his 15-year sentence, and since that time had worked on making himself a better person.
But a court-ordered psychological evaluation before his sentencing tells a much different story. The doctor who did the evaluation says Kohlhepp said, “I raped a girl and got caught.” Kohlhepp and the victim did not have a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship, but she was someone he was friends with. The doctor’s report says Kohlhepp forced the girl into his home at gunpoint, tied her up and raped her.