Key Parish victim given extra time to organize claim

Kalpana Patel and her family had as many as 80 accounts with Al Parish.

The financial paperwork for the biggest cash loser in Al Parish's failed Ponzi scheme is in such disarray that officials are giving her extra time to get things in order.

Kalpana Patel and her family invested as much $30 million with Parish, but because she only recently hired an attorney and opted to take an active role in the settlement process, she was given until August to get their claims organized.

"To the Patels, this was a big tragedy and it's very personal," her attorney, Jacques G. Simon, said during a hearing Thursday in the U.S. District Courthouse in Charleston. "Unfortunately, it is an accounting nightmare," he added.

Patel by far represents the largest group of investors in the Parish fiasco. She and her family had as many as 80 accounts with Parish, covering some 40 investors.

Their money represents nearly half the $66 million Parish is thought to have squandered.

Patel, a physician from Buffalo, N.Y., was not in court Thursday, but months ago she told The Post and Courier that she had hoped to use her investment to help universities, set up foundations, give to charity and bring people health care.

She even took steps to make sure Parish was on the up-and-up, she said, by visiting Charleston for a firsthand look at his operation.

"I asked him, 'Are you sure this is not a Ponzi scam?' " she recalled during a telephone interview. "We were betrayed. I just can't believe it," she also said.

Parish, a former economist at Charleston Southern University, is serving a 24-year prison term after pleading guilty last year to a massive case of investor fraud that drew in 600 people.

Officials expect to recover only about $9 million in cash for redistribution to investors after selling off property, an odd assortment of collectibles and finding mostly empty bank accounts.

A hearing on the proposed investor settlement plan is scheduled for July 1.

Parish is serving his sentence at the federal prison in Butner, N.C.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551 or skropf@postandcourier.com.