Politics & Government

Strange events unfolding around N. Carolina's longest serving legislator

SBI agents investigating events surrounding state Sen. R.C. Soles have arrested a Tabor City teenager for setting fire to the house the senator helped him pay for.

Allen Wayne Strickland, 17, was charged Thursday with one count of fraudulent burning of a building and one count of attempting to obtain property by false pretenses, both felonies.

The charges stem from a July 29 fire at Strickland’s home, located at 99 March Avenue in Tabor City. Soles, 74, has said he helped pay for the construction of the house.

Strickland is being held in the Columbus County Jail under a $100,000 secured bond.

Strickland, who goes by the nickname Frog, is one of a string of young men who are former legal clients of Soles' who the senator has later aided with money. Soles said he helped Strickland in exchange for his promise to stay in school.

But Strickland's ties to the senator also involved the police.

Last year police charged Strickland with trespassing at Soles' house and, later, with trying to extort money from the senator. The extortion charge was later dropped.

In May Soles' sprayed Strickland with pepper spray when Strickland approached the senator's car at a stop sign and, according to Soles, threw a scooter helmet at him. Strickland initially filed a complaint with police and then tried to withdraw it. No charges were filed.

The SBI opened an investigation this month after Stacey Scott, a former law client of Soles, claimed in a televised interview that the senator fondled him when Scott was 15. Scott later recanted, saying he was high on drugs when he made the abuse allegation.

The SBI is also investigating a shooting involving the senator. On Sunday, Soles, a Democrat who is the state's longest serving legislator, shot a former legal client in the leg at his Tabor City home. The man, Thomas Kyle Blackburn, 22, was not seriously injured.