Former HomeGold chief executive Ronald Sheppard will have to wait until next year to leave prison.
A three-member parole panel rejected his fifth and final bid for parole Wednesday, despite Sheppard’s repeated apologies and stated remorse.
Sheppard can be released next year without parole after maxing out his sentence. He has thus far served about 8 1/2 years behind bars.
Sheppard was convicted 11 years ago of securities fraud and other offenses in the collapse of Pickens-based Carolina Investors, a HomeGold subsidiary. About 12,000 people, most from the Upstate, lost an estimated $278 million when HomeGold and Carolina Investors failed in 2003.
“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of the five co-defendants that I had that caused harm to some of the ones at Carolina Investors that trusted us with our funds, and for that I am truly sorry for my role as well as their role,” he told the panel via a video link from a prison. “Anybody who puts money into an institution doesn’t have any thoughts that they are going to be misled as our company did to the people of South Carolina, and for that I am truly sorry.”
But Toni Lawrimore, a victims services coordinator for the state attorney general’s office, told the panel that her office “strongly” opposed Sheppard’s parole.
“Mr. Sheppard’s actions that led to his conviction actually devastated hundreds of people in South Carolina,” she said.
Lawrimore then read a letter from the son of one victim who died in a nursing home in May, saying his mother ended life dependent on her child for care after her life’s savings vanished because of “this despicable person.”
“This victim’s circumstances were not unique,” she said. “There were hundreds of people like that. They were left destitute without their life’s savings that they worked so hard for.”
Unlike past years, no victims showed up Wednesday to oppose parole for Sheppard.
Sheppard said he has suffered two heart attacks in recent years. His son told the board he cannot get the proper nutrition and rehabilitation he needs while in prison.
He said some investors want his father “to rot in jail.”
“He wasn’t give a death sentence,” he said.
The board voted unanimously to reject Sheppard’s request, without debate, officially citing the serious nature of the crime.
Sheppard said he has contributed about $3.5 million of his personal money toward a settlement from a lawsuit as a result of the collapse.
His sentence was 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.
All of his co-defendants have been released from prison.
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.
A bankruptcy trustee returned about 18 cents on the dollar to investors 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 State Attorney General Alan Wilson complained his office wasn’t notified of the hearing. No one appeared at the earlier hearing to oppose Sheppard’s release.