Karate expert found guilty on two of six charges in extortion trial
A karate expert accused of being the muscle in a dispute between two businessmen over a Folly Beach condo has been found guilty on two of six counts of extortion by force and violence.
A federal jury found Karate champion Gunther Blancke, 39, originally from Belgium, guilty for the first day of the alleged conspiracy.
Blancke was taken away in handcuffs and will remain in jail until sentencing, which will take place at a later date. He faces up to 20 years in prison on each count.
The case went to the jury following three days of testimony at the federal courthouse on Meeting Street.
Blancke, who was accused of going by the alias “Ivan,” is charged with helping businessman and friend Tom True beat up and constrain another businessman, Steven Sarkela, inside True’s Mount Pleasant home in June 2010.
Sarkela testified he was held and threatened until he was forced to sign papers turning over control of a Folly condo sale to True. The amount of money involved was about $200,000.
True pleaded guilty earlier this week for his role, while Blancke’s attorney said his client was simply in the wrong place when True decided to abduct Sarkela.
Sarkela testified he was confined in a closet and duct-taped to a chair for more than an hour.