Securities and Exchange Commission charges Ben Staples - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Securities and Exchange Commission charges key witness in Parker trials with fraud

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Ben Staples on the witness stand during Brett Parker's murder trial. Ben Staples on the witness stand during Brett Parker's murder trial.

A man who testified in Brett Parker's murder and gambling trials has been charged with fraud by the federal government.

The Securities and Exchange Commission says Ben Staples was part of a scheme that took millions of dollars from terminally ill patients.

Staples was an important witness for both county and federal prosecutors this year. He was also controversial after admitting during Parker's May murder trial that he'd had an affair with victim Tammy Jo Parker.

Staples helped the state convince a jury Parker was guilty of killing Tammy Jo and gambling business partner Bryan Capnerhurst.

Earlier this month, Staples again aided prosecutors -- this time federal prosecutors -- as the government went after Parker, his father, and a third man for running a gambling operation.

But now, Staples will have to go on defense, fending off allegtions that he and his sons defrauded dozens of people who were terminally ill.

The SEC says Staples and one son set up a program allowing them to pay funeral expenses for clients if they agreed to open join brokerage accounts with the Staples.

An SEC statement says they "expolited the tragic circumstances surrounding a terminally ill diagnosis and turned the misfortune of others into a profit making enterprise for themselves."

The SEC says the plan, carried out starting in 2008, netted the Staples some $6.5 million.

Parker's defense attorney, Dave Fedor, says it would have been nice to know about this plan prior to the murder trial.

"I think we could have crucified him," said Fedor. "I don't think he was truthful. I don't believe much of what he said. I just believe he wasn't candid with the court. He certainly wasn't candid with us."

Late in the day, we did hear from Staples' attorney, who said he did not want to try the case in the media.

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