Former HomeGold executive requests parole after heart attack

Greenville NewsApril 8, 2014 

— Former HomeGold chief executive Ronald Sheppard is asking to be paroled from prison this month, partly on the basis that he needs outside medical treatment following a heart attack suffered while he was incarcerated, his attorney said Monday.

Attorney General Alan Wilson, however, has notified state officials he will oppose parole for Sheppard, who was convicted of securities fraud and other charges in the collapse of Pickens-based Carolina Investors, a HomeGold subsidiary, 11 years ago.

Michele Patrao Forsythe, a Charleston attorney representing Sheppard, said one basis for his parole petition is that the 56-year-old former executive’s heart condition required surgery last year and he would best benefit from outside medical treatment.

“Mr. Sheppard’s conditions were severe and serious,” Forsythe told The Greenville News.

Department of Corrections records show Sheppard was moved last November to an outside medical location that wasn’t identified. Since July 2010, he was moved 19 other times for unspecified medical reasons, according to the records.

“He has served more time than any of his co-defendants,” Forsythe said of Sheppard. “It would just be natural that he would be able to obtain parole, particularly in light of his medical condition.”

About 12,000 people, most from the Upstate, lost an estimated $278 million when HomeGold and Carolina Investors failed in 2003.

In a letter to the South Carolina Probation, Parole and Pardon Services director, Wilson said the collapse of HomeGold and its investment arm resulted in “thousands of South Carolinians losing their life savings.”

“Many of the victims in this case were retired and have suffered enormously,” Wilson told Kela Thomas, the department director, in his letter. “Given the seriousness of the crimes and the impact on the victims, this office is requesting that parole be denied for Mr. Sheppard.”

The state Board of Paroles and Pardons, whose members are appointed by the governor and approved by the state Senate, will consider Sheppard’s release at a hearing April 23.

Sheppard in 2007 was sentenced to 20 years in prison, the most severe punishment handed down against any of the six former company officials who were convicted or pleaded guilty in the investor-fraud case.

Government prosecutors said Sheppard participated in a large-scale conspiracy that led to the collapse of Carolina Investors, which sold notes and debentures to the public, and he took control of HomeGold’s finances for his personal benefit.

Corrections records show state officials haven’t taken any disciplinary action against Sheppard while he has been in prison.

He has earned work credits as a canteen operator, custodial worker, food service aide and laundry room attendant, the records show.

Sheppard has failed in his previous attempts at parole, including last year when a three-member parole panel voted unanimously to reject his bid for release.

The panel heard from those in support of his release, opponents and Sheppard himself.

Wilson argued that Sheppard’s crime “was just as if he used a gun.”

“The impact on their lives is no less,” he told the panel.

Sheppard’s attorneys argued the former HomeGold executive was a textbook candidate for parole. He was a model prisoner without any infractions, they said, had extensive family support, had a plan to work when he got out and continued to show remorse for his crime.

Sheppard told the board through a closed-circuit feed from prison that he never “set out trying to harm anyone.”

“My heart goes out to any folks who lose money in any investments, not just HomeGold,” he said.

“I do have remorse for the fact that there was nothing further that I could do to get these people 100 percent of their money back. And that’s something I’ll have to live with. I do feel for them.”

Sheppard’s lawyers said he had contributed about $3.5 million of his personal money toward a settlement from a lawsuit as a result of the collapse.

A bankruptcy trustee returned about 18 cents for every dollar invested through the sale of assets, settlement of a civil suit against former HomeGold and Carolina Investors officials, and other measures.

In 2012, Sheppard’s parole was revoked a month after a parole board panel voted to free him when Wilson complained his office wasn’t notified of the hearing. No one appeared at the earlier hearing to oppose Sheppard’s release.

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