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Preliminary hearing underway in Dearman-Gray investor case

BARTLESVILLE — Preliminary testimony was given last week in the embezzlement/conspiracy case against former Osage County resident and investment counselor Larry Joe Dearman and Bartlesville businesswoman Marya Gray.

Washington County Special Judge John Gerken is expected to make a decision in early April on whether or not the case, involving several Osage County investors, should proceed for a district court trial. Prior to making the ruling, the judge will consider briefs submitted by defense attorneys and rebuttal from District Attorney Kevin Buchanan.

Dearman, 41, is charged with four counts of embezzlement, six counts of obtaining money by false pretenses and six counts of conspiracy involving Gray and businesses controlled by her. Since his arrest on the charges last October, Dearman has been held on a $150,000 bond in Washington County Jail. Six charges of conspiracy were filed against Gray, 50, who remains free on a $150,000 bond.

Testimony was heard from several alleged victims who claimed to have invested as much as $100,000 each in business ventures which involved the two defendants. Between late 2012 and mid-2013, at least 16 different civil lawsuits involving approximately three dozen plaintiffs (including several from Osage County) were filed against Dearman. Most of those filings also named Gray as a defendant.

A government accountant testified Tuesday, March 11, that $3 million in funds invested by Dearman clients was transferred between accounts controlled by Dearman and Gray. The same witness, Claire Barrows of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, told of more than $650,000 in cash being taken from an automated teller machine located inside an area casino.

The SEC alleges that, from December 2008 and August 2012, Dearman and Gray used various illegal schemes to raise at least $4.7 million from more than 30 Dearman clients. In a complaint filed in August 2013, the federal commission alleges the pair “squandered the vast majority of those funds in gambling, personal expenses, payments to other businesses controlled by Gray, and payments to other investors, i.e., Ponzi payments.”

Washington County Clerk Marjorie Parrish was called to the stand Tuesday to answer questions pertaining to local records showing no property ownership by one of Gray’s businesses, The Property Shoppe. Testimony from investors indicated that Dearman and Gray solicited investments in the company, which was supposed to have purchased distressed properties, made improvements and re-sold them for a profit.

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