The new home of 17-year-old Allen Strickland, who lived alone, caught fire last week in Tabor City. The land was given to him by a relative, and according to a deed prepared by Senator Soles’ law firm, Strickland is the legal owner of the property. Strickland says the house cost about $70,000 to build. He says the Senator gave him cash to cover the cost. "Me and him made a deal, that he would build this house and put clothes on my back and make sure there was food in the refrigerator, as long as I went to school,” Strickland said. WWAY has learned the teen doesn't have a valid driver's license, but Strickland says the Senator also gave him cash to buy a white Corvette. We've been trying to reach the Senator for weeks to verify if this is true. He won't return our calls, and we were asked to leave the property when we paid a visit to his office in Tabor City. Strickland''s father died years ago, his mother lives in another part of the state, and he doesn't have a job. The money to buy these things has to be coming from somewhere, and if it's true that it's coming from the Senator, attorneys say that could create some serious tax issues. "An individual can give to another individual a gift, as long as it does not exceed 13,000 dollars in 2009, and not have to pay taxes, but if they exceed that amount, the donor, the person giving the gift, has a responsibility to report that, along with their income, and pay taxes that are much like the estate taxes they would pay when they die,” said attorney Griff Anderson. If Senator Soles did in fact give Strickland the money, he may very well be planning to report it to the IRS. But unless someone runs afoul of the IRS and is sued for damages in court, their personal tax records are not public record, even if the person in question is a public official. Further complicating matters, Allen Strickland says all the money the senator has given him has been in cash. "The question arises, why? Why would someone take the risks of a cash transaction? And the answer that is most likely, is that the person does not want other people to know about it, and they don't want a paper trail,” Anderson said. The SBI has been called in to investigate the fire at Strickland’s home, and Senator Soles alleged financial ties to the house could certainly be relevant in their investigation. Theoretically, they would have access to the financial information we haven't been able to obtain, so there's still hope that we may learn who paid for these extravagant gifts to the Columbus County teenager.
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