Parish given 10 years on state fraud charge
Failed economist Al Parish was sentenced Thursday to 10 years in prison for securities fraud, the maximum penalty he could get in state court for an investment scheme in which hundreds of investors lost an estimated $66 million.
Prosecutors wanted the stiffest possible penalty in case Parish's appeal of his 24-year federal sentence on similar charges leads to a significant reduction in his prison time.
Parish's sentencing hearing at the Charleston County Judicial Center lasted less than a halfhour.
He repeated his apologies to the investors who lost the money they had entrusted to him.
"I never intended for anyone to lose money in this," Parish said. "The investments I made, I intended to get good returns and they didn't."
Parish also apologized to the judge for his prison-issued clothing, arriving in the courtroom with his hands chained behind his back and clad in tan jail pants and a white T-shirt with the letters "R & D" handwritten in black marker. It stood for "receiving and delivery."
"This is what they gave me to wear," Parish said, adding that it's not what he would have chosen if he had the chance of something else.
Few of Parish's nearly 600 investor-victims attended the sentencing, but in the courtroom were
Jan and Jerome Crites, an elderly couple who had known Parish since he was a child.
"Getting a last look at that devil," said Jan Crites. The couple holds a particular grudge: Parish took $175,000 of their money on March 26, 2007, one day before he went into an amnesia-punctuated collapse as the federal fraud case against him grew.
"He knew that it was over," Jan Crites said about Parish taking their money. "That's the part that hurt so deeply."
Parish, 51, pleaded guilty in April to a single state count of securities fraud, mirroring the several federal charges for which he was sentenced in June. The state charge had been deferred until the federal case was settled.
Assistant S.C. Attorney General Robert McNair III described Parish's con, in which he used four investment "pools" to build his client list, as a myth of "exorbitant fictitious returns" while clients' investment cash fueled Parish's extravagant lifestyle of homes and travel.
Parish's defense lawyer, Andy Savage, had asked for leniency, saying Parish's prison time is more than what resulted from other financial crimes in the state, including the Carolina Investors fraud in which more than 8,000 people lost $275 million when it and parent company Home Gold Inc., went under in 2003.
Savage also repeated Parish's defense that he was taken advantage of by traders who played on his lack of knowledge of the collectables he acquired as investments. "The concept was good, the execution was terrible," Savage said.
Under a plea agreement, the 10-year term imposed by Circuit Judge G. Edward Welmaker will run concurrently with the federal time.
Parish, a former economist at Charleston Southern University, was sent to federal prison after nearly 600 investors lost an estimated $66 million entrusted to him. As part of his sentence, Parish was told to pay back all of the money, but realistically there is no chance of it being done in full. His assets are still being assembled and what can be recovered will go back to investors.
After the hearing, Parish left the courthouse to be taken by two State Law Enforcement Division agents back to the federal prison where he's being held in Butner, N.C.
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551, or skropf@postand courier.com.