Local News

Van, Driver and up to $15 Million Missing From...

Posted October 6, 1997

— Authorities were searching today for an employee and possibly up to $15 million dollars missing from a Charlotte armored car company. 

Police bulletins alerted officers on Sunday to watch for a white van that could be carrying as much as $15 million. 

If that amount was stolen, it would be one of the largest heists in U.S. history. The same firm, Loomis, Fargo & Co., lost more than $18 million in the nation's biggest armored car robbery on March 29 in Jacksonville, Fla. 

Authorities were searching for David Scott Ghantt, 27, of Kings Mountain, N.C., who disappeared during or after his Saturday work shift at Loomis Fargo. 

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police listed the crime as ``larceny by employee'' and ``auto theft,'' but FBI agents hadn't ruled out the possibility that Ghantt was a victim in the crime. 

``We're very interested in finding the location of that van and Mr. Ghantt,'' said William Perry, FBI special agent in charge. ``We aren't ready to say what happened. We just know he's unaccounted for.'' 

Ghantt, a driver and guard, was scheduled to work Saturday at the Loomis, Fargo warehouse in west Charlotte. His wife reported him missing about 7:15 a.m. Sunday. 

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Boyles raises caution flag on state debt RALEIGH (AP)-- For years, North Carolina lawmakers held fast to a pay-as-you-go philosophy when it came to construction projects - the buildings got built when the state had the money in hand. 

That philosophy helped the state and many of its local governments build one of the best credit ratings in the country. 

But for the last decade, state treasurer Harlan Boyles says, the debt carried by state and local governments has been growing at a rate of about $1 billion a year. Last week, he raised a caution flag for state officials. 

``It's time to pause and consider not only what's outstanding, but the trend over the last decade, and what's in prospect,'' Boyles said. ``And then we can decide whether we are bordering on getting into overborrowing.'' 

Including all the bonds issued by state and local governments, North Carolina taxpayers owe nearly $23 billion, with another $4 billion that has been approved, but not borrowed yet. 

The state has been able to handle increasing debt, increased spending and tax reductions all at the same time because the state's economy has been growing rapidly in this decade. 

``We have been enjoying revenue growth in unprecedented fashion, and that's good,'' Boyles said. ``But what do we do if revenues leveled off and went into decline like they did in the late 1980s and early 1990s?'' 

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NASCAR remains a sport with few blacks involved NASCAR, considered the fastest growing spectator sport in the country, remains one of the least diverse. 

From the Saturday night tracks in small towns to the superspeedways of Winston Cup, in nearly every case the drivers are white, the pit crews are white, the officials are white and the overwhelming majority of fans are white. 

``Here we are, moving into a new millennium, and auto racing still looks like 1939 baseball,'' said Willy T. Ribbs, a black driver from California who raced in the big time once, and is trying to get there again. 

The question of race is not one that concerns the leader of NASCAR, The Charlotte Observer reported. 

``We don't view that as an issue,'' said Bill France Jr., the longtime president of NASCAR's Florida-based governing body. ``America is what America is today. Anybody can be anything regardless of your race or your national origin or what have you. Philosophically, there's nothing wrong with that. You can't cast a wand and make everything happen that somebody wants to happen.'' 

In the 50 years of NASCAR history, six black drivers made it to Winston Cup, stock car racing's top shelf. Only one of them ever won a race. 

One handicap to attracting a black driver is that drivers are usually born into the sport. 

Of today's top drivers, 12 are brothers, and at least 14 others have a family legacy in motorsports. 

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Third smoker's trial starting in Jacksonville JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP)-- It's round three for anti-tobacco attorney Norwood ``Woody'' Wilner versus a cigarette maker. 

Joann Karbiwnyk, a former smoker suffering from terminal lung cancer, is suing R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., claiming she became addicted to cigarettes after she started smoking as a teen-ager. 

Jury selection was set to begin today to pick a six-member panel to decide questions of corporate liability versus personal responsibility in a trial expected to last about three weeks. 

Until a batch of recent settlements, Wilner was one of the nation's few lawyers who could claim a victory over tobacco. He has one courtroom win and one loss in lawsuits against cigarette makers, and he has another smoker's trial set in December against Reynolds. 

A year ago, he won a $750,000 judgment for his cancer-stricken client, Grady Carter, in a case now on appeal against Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co. Earlier this year, he lost a suit against Reynolds brought by the family of Jean Connor, a smoker who died of lung cancer. 

Although Ms. Karbiwnyk, 58, looks healthy, testimony will be presented in the trial ``that her prognosis is not good,'' said Virginia Steiger, an aide to Wilner. 

Ms. Karbiwnyk blames Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Reynolds, the nation's second-largest cigarette maker and part of RJR Nabisco, for the cancer that appeared in her right lung in 1995, 11 years after she quit smoking. 

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Small towns unsure they want major-league baseball KERNERSVILLE, N.C. (AP)-- The announcement that major-league baseball could come to this region of central North Carolina was being received with something akin to major-league skepticism. 

``What gets me, if they can't make money up there in Minnesota, do they expect to come to North Carolina and make money?'' asked Jack Marshall, who runs a bait and tackle shop here. ``I think we're being used as pawns. I really do.'' 

Minnesota Twins owner Carl Pohlad gave notice to state lawmakers Friday that if a new stadium isn't built, he will sell the team to a group headed by former Hickory businessman Don Beaver. 

The team would play for two seasons at an expanded Knights Castle in Fort Mill, S.C., then beginning in 2001 in a new stadium on the border of Guilford and Forsyth counties. 

There are many questions to be answered before the Twins call North Carolina home. 

Voters in Forsyth and Guilford counties will vote in May on a 1 percent tax on restaurant food and a 50-cent surcharge on each ticket, which would pay for a new stadium. 

The public pitch hasn't been made, but a recent poll suggests that most voters wouldn't support the tax. 

Copyright ©1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or distributed. 

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