SC judge gives woman 5 more years for ‘egregious’ $1.1M theft from Rock Hill development

A South Carolina judge on Friday sentenced a woman already serving federal time to five more years in state prison for blowing through over $1 million in stolen money with trips, spa days, plastic surgery and a BMW.

Judge Dan Hall sentenced Lisa Buza Hill, 44, of Belmont, N.C., to the maximum five years under a plea deal between Hill and prosecutors in a hearing at the Moss Justice Center in York.

Hill begged for a lenient sentence after pleading guilty to breach of trust. That’s a charge stemming from her time as chief financial officer in 2020 at GRH, a company in Rock Hill’s massive Riverwalk development. But Hall said the 2020 Rock Hill theft is the worst he’s ever seen from a person in a position of authority.

“I have never had someone appear in front of me on breach of trust charges this egregious in my 10 years of being a judge,” Hall said. “$1.1 million, at least, that’s a huge amount.”

Federal prosecutors already called Hill a “serial embezzler” because she has three federal fraud convictions from companies in both Carolinas dating back to 2012.

In the 2012 case, she stole over $800,000 from a Charlotte-area motorcycle business, testimony showed Friday. Then, while paying off restitution, she took more than $22,000 from another Charlotte business. After that, she was convicted of wire fraud from the Riverwalk case.

Stolen Rock Hill money

Hill was in charge of the money at GRH for eight months in 2020 before being caught. A statement provided by GRH employee Debbie McMillian and read in court Friday says Hill “stole and filtered money from our company and did so through” the neighborhood homeowners association.

“She has been given chances to change her behavior, but she has chosen fraud and dishonesty,” McMillan said in court.

16th Circuit assistant solicitor Will Anderson spoke bluntly about Hill: “She was entrusted with that $1.1 million and she stole it.”

He also laid out a list of how she spent the stolen cash:

  • $6,900 on cosmetic surgery

  • spas and beauty lounges

  • a child’s college tuition

  • clothes and jewelry

  • hundreds of dollars at a time on restaurants, DoorDash, and delivered groceries

  • thousands to a boyfriend, a former boyfriend and others close to her

  • attorney’s fees from her past federal court cases where she owed over $800,000 in restitution

The theft only stopped when she was caught, Anderson said.

Hill: “I was a terrible human being”

Hill asked for mercy from Judge Hall in sentencing, saying that prison had changed her. She apologized to the victims she stole from and people she hurt.

“Right now I don’t even forgive myself,” Hill said in court.

But she admitted she may have continued stealing if she wasn’t caught.

“To say I was a terrible human being is a true statement,” Hill said. “When (the prosecutor) said I was never gonna stop, he’s probably right. I probably wasn’t.”

Why more SC prison time?

Hill’s current sentence is 57 months in federal prison for wire fraud from the same 2020 Rock Hill Riverwalk scheme.

Hill’s lawyer, Thomas Bowen of the 16th Circuit Public Defender Office, asked Hall to give Hill credit for time served because the state and federal charges are related.

“It is our position that she has been punished enough,” Bowen argued.

But Hall agreed with prosecutors that stealing the money is different from the federal court wire fraud conviction. The federal charge didn’t take into account the victims and lives in South Carolina affected by her theft, Hall said.

Hill was set to be released from federal prison in December. But now she will go from federal prison to South Carolina state prison after her federal sentence ends.