Report says Parish kept $7.7 million

Al Parish

During good times and bad, failed investment leader Al Parish lined his own pockets with more than $7.7 million until his overly ambitious world of investment pools collapsed, court documents filed Wednesday contend.

A new report tallies the amount that the former Charleston Southern University professor allegedly spent on himself, his family and his businesses from those who gave him money to invest.

Parish began recruiting investors as early as 1997 and reportedly squandered, mismanaged or stole $80 million in total.

"Based upon information currently available to us, it appears that not less than $7,702,837 in investor proceeds were used for the benefit of Defendant Parish," documents filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission say.

The figure was identified as part of the government's civil request to claim all of what essentially is considered ill-gotten gains from Parish's collapsed empire.

The money likely will never be collected, since most, if not all of Parish's assets, possessions and investment have already been identified, sold or marked for sale, with the proceeds earmarked for his almost 500 aggrieved investors.

"Declaring the amount owed and collecting the amount owed are two different things," Parish's attorney Andy Savage said Wednesday.

Savage said the figure is favorable to Parish because the accounting shows there are no hidden assets or overseas accounts, which some had suspected when Parish was indicted more than a year ago. "The initial impression was that he absconded with all these monies," Savage said.

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Parish, 50, is expected to be sentenced for his criminal violations June 26 in Charleston. In October, he pleaded guilty in a massive case of investor fraud that registered hundreds of victims in what authorities called a Ponzi scheme. Many were lured by promises of stellar returns from his four self-created investment "pools," that later became worthless. Recent estimates put the total loss figure at about $79 million, which is down from the $90 million used earlier.

Under a plea deal, the number of criminal fraud charges against Parish was reduced from 11 to three, which carry a maximum of 45 years total behind bars. Prosecutors are expected to recommend at least three decades in prison for Parish.

Government investigators pieced together Parish's spending by tracing some 15,000 transactions. In addition to withdrawing those funds to bankroll his lifestyle, Parish used "pool" proceeds to buy goods for his investors and even pay some of their utility bills.