Originally created 06/03/04

Fraud trial to get Aiken County jury



AIKEN - The high-profile trial of Carolina Investors President Larry Owens on securities fraud charges will be decided by a panel of jurors drawn from Aiken County, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Circuit Judge James W. Johnson Jr. denied a defense motion to move the trial out of Greenville, ordering that the trial remain at the Greenville County Courthouse with a jury selected from Aiken County.

Mr. Owen, 60, of Easley, was indicted by a grand jury in November on 23 counts of securities fraud in connection with the collapse of Carolina Investors and its parent company, HomeGold.

About 8,000 investors, many from the Upstate, lost nearly $300 million when the companies declared bankruptcy last year.

Officials with the South Carolina attorney general's office, which is prosecuting the case, said Wednesday that Judge Johnson intends to select a jury from Aiken County on July 19 and start the trial the next day in Greenville. It was not immediately known whether the jury would be sequestered.

The indictment alleges Mr. Owen used various tactics to tout the company's stability and convince investors that they should keep their money in the company, which he headed as president since 1989. The charges include using a scheme to defraud investors and making untrue statements or omissions to investigators. If convicted on all counts, Mr. Owen faces a maximum sentence of 206 years in prison and a fine of more than $1 million.

Mr. Owen has pleaded innocent to the charges.

Associated Press reports were used in this story.

Reach Stephen Gurr at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or stephen.gurr@augustachronicle.com.