Ronald Sheppard (Image: South Carolina Dept. of Corrections)
Columbia, SC (By Greenville News) - A state panel today denied parole for former HomeGold chief executive Ronald Sheppard, after Attorney General Alan Wilson and eight investors said they objected to his release from prison.
A parole hearing for Sheppard, 55, was held here this morning and Sheppard participated from prison via closed-circuit television.
An estimated 12,000 people, most from the Upstate and many elderly, lost about $278 million when HomeGold and its Pickens-based subsidiary collapsed 10 years ago.
In a letter objecting to Sheppard's parole, W. Allen Myrick, senior assistant deputy attorney general, had written that Sheppard's convictions arose from his role in the business of the two firms.
"The collapse of this company resulted in thousands of South Carolinians losing their life savings," Myrick wrote to Kela Thomas, director of the state Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services.
"Many of the victims in this case were retired and have suffered enormously."
"Given the seriousness of the crimes and the impact on the victims," the Attorney General's Office requested parole be denied, Myrick wrote.
The hearing marked the former CEO's latest attempt for freedom.
Last year, the state's parole board denied Sheppard's release a month after his parole was approved.
Attorney General Alan Wilson asked parole officials to stop the release process because Wilson's office wasn't notified of an earlier hearing, when no one appeared to oppose Sheppard's release.
Thomas subsequently said the agency made a mistake by not notifying prosecutors of the hearing and the case would be reheard.
The board then voted 6-1 to deny parole for Sheppard, whose lawyer told the board he objected to the review because the earlier hearing complied with state law.
A Lexington County jury in 2007 found Sheppard guilty of securities fraud, conspiracy and obtaining a signature or property by false pretenses in the collapse of HomeGold and Carolina Investors.
Sheppard was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
For years, Carolina Investors offered loans and provided high-yield investments, though not insured. In the wake of the collapse, investors received 18 cents on the dollar.
In 1998, the company was taken over by HomeGold, which was heavily involved in subprime mortgages. In the months leading up to closing its doors, investors' money was used to subsidize the parent company's losses, prosecutors said.
In all, six former HomeGold or Carolina Investors officials were indicted by a state grand jury and either convicted of or pleaded guilty to various crimes. Sheppard received the harshest sentence.
Last year, he expressed remorse to the parole board. "There's not a day that goes by I don't feel for the investors," Sheppard said.
His lawyer and son argued to the board that Sheppard had paid $3.5 million in restitution, and they had collected a petition of 150 signatures and two dozen letters, including from the Lexington County sheriff, asking for his parole.