Sentencing postponed for Mount Pleasant businessman True in extortion case

Thomas True (provided)

Sentencing for Mount Pleasant businessman Thomas True has been postponed after an attorney involved in the case became ill with the flu, court officials said.

True had been scheduled to be sentenced in federal court this morning for his role in a terror-filled shakedown of a rival.

True, 69, pleaded guilty in July to one of six counts he faced for extortion in the 2010 incident. U.S. District Judge Michael Duffy said True’s sentencing will be rescheduled to a later date.

The man he used for muscle, 39-year-old karate expert Gunther Blancke, went to trial shortly after the plea and was found guilty on two of six counts of extortion, each carrying a maximum 20 years behind bars. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 29.

The two men were accused of binding, beating and abusing business rival Steven Sarkela inside True’s Snee Farm home.

On the night of June 3, 2010, Sarkela, then 37, went to True’s residence with the hopes of clearing up a dispute involving liens True had placed on some Folly Beach condos.

But the discussion turned heated and Sarkela testified he was jumped by the pair. After Blancke entered the room, he reportedly took on the persona of a Russian gangster named “Ivan.”

Sarkela said he was duct-taped to a chair, threatened with a knife and scissors, and held against his will until he signed papers allowing True to receive $200,000 from a condo sale.

Over the next five days, Sarkela recorded several threatening phone conversations with True who reportedly said he would use “Ivan” again if he didn’t get paid. The recordings were done in cooperation with the FBI.

Blancke, a former European karate champion and fourth-degree black belt, had lived in Florida and Mount Pleasant where he operated a martial arts studio on Johnnie Dodds Boulevard.

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