Dad, son charged as team

Anthony Houlk Craven (left), William Charles Craven (right)

MONCKS CORNER -- A father-and-son team from Awendaw cruised South Carolina's highways in their pickup truck in search of broken-down cars they could quickly load onto their makeshift towing dolly and sell at local scrap metal shops for $300 to $600, authorities said.

William Charles Craven, 69, and Anthony Houlk Craven, 35, often sold two or three cars a day for the last 2 1/2 years, leaving a trail of as many as 200 cars stolen from highways from Spartanburg to Charleston, and sometimes Georgia, Berkeley County sheriff's investigators said.

"It didn't matter where it was," sheriff's Sgt. Bobby Shuler said. "If it was on the interstate and they could access it, they got it."

So far, the Cravens each face 71 counts of possession of a stolen vehicle, with the possibility of more charges coming as investigators comb through thick stacks of scrap-metal receipts, Shuler said.

The father and son are being held at the Calhoun County Detention Center on a grand larceny charge after a South Carolina Highway Patrol trooper pulled them over in that county. Shuler said the trooper spotted the odd-looking dolly on the pair's pickup as it hauled a vehicle the trooper had tagged as disabled just moments earlier, Shuler said.

"It looks primitive," Shuler said of the orange trailer made from a car axle, "but it works."

The trooper contacted Berkeley County authorities after finding dozens of scrap-metal receipts inside the truck.

Shuler met with employees from Berkeley Scrap Metal in Moncks Corner and the 176 Junkyard near Carnes Crossroad and they both showed him stacks of reports, each one representing a car the pair had sold to them.

In many cases, the suspects removed the catalytic converters and other parts from the vehicles and sold them separately for another $50 to $100 apiece.

Neither scrap-metal shop owner could be reached for comment Tuesday. Shuler said both shops met state requirements in keeping detailed records of the vehicles, including photographs, vehicle identification numbers and the color of the car. Scrap metal shops are not required to have a title to buy a car.

He said most of the cars were older, likely belonging to people with minimum insurance who can't afford to replace it once it's gone.

"They're out of everything," said Dan Moon, the Sheriff's Office's public information officer.

Shuler said all but two of the cars were destroyed. But they are in bad shape and likely will meet the same fate, he said.

The younger Craven has an extensive criminal history, including convictions for criminal domestic violence and possession of marijuana, according to a State Law Enforcement Division criminal background check.

He was arrested and charged in November after troopers working a wreck involving his pickup truck realized he was hauling a stolen vehicle that had been disabled on the shoulder.

At the time, troopers did not find anything to lead them to the other thefts, Shuler said.

The elder Craven has no prior arrests on his SLED record.