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Fraud case moves closer to trial date

COVINGTON - The case of a former Covington man who allegedly bilked his friends and neighbors out of more than $1 million in investments is closer to a trial date after a motions hearing in Newton County Superior Court on Thursday morning.

Ulys Randall "Randy" Riner, 60, faces one count of racketeering and 21 counts of violation of the Georgia Securities Act of 1973. Riner, who was in court Thursday with his attorney, Tony Cochran of Atlanta, was indicted on the charges in December 2006 and entered a not guilty plea in January 2007.

The charges against Riner reportedly affected as many as 30 families in the Covington/Conyers area. Five members of those families were in court Thursday for the hearing.

District Attorney Ken Wynn, who is prosecuting the case, said the state is seeking restitution for the victims.

Thursday's hearing was basically a housekeeping measure to repair a problem with the court record that occurred at a status conference hearing last year. The substitute court reporter at that hearing misplaced the tape of that proceeding, according to court testimony. Thursday's hearing before Superior Court Judge Horace Johnson was held in order to allow both parties to file motions clarifying the record of what transpired at the earlier hearing.

The charges against Riner stem from his activities as president and owner of Express Factors in Covington in the late 1990s. Riner later moved the business to Conyers where he lost more than $4 million in funds invested primarily by Covington and Conyers residents, most of whom were his friends and family members.

Riner's business involved factoring government contracts, meaning he would purchase the accounts receivables of businesses doing government contract work at a discount and receive the full payment from the government agency once the contracts were fulfilled. Investments in Riner's business were documented by promissory notes that matured at various times. Investments by individuals ranged from a few hundred dollars to more than $600,000. Promissory notes are considered securities under state and federal statutes.

Riner's indictment alleges that he was not registered as a dealer, limited dealer, salesperson or limited salesperson of promissory notes under the requirements of the Georgia Securities Act. The state also alleges that the promissory notes were not properly registered with the state and that Riner lied to his investors about the notes and how their money would be repaid.

Riner claimed in March 2004 that the failure of his business resulted when his largest client filed for bankruptcy and was unable to pay Express Factors money owed to the company.

The Securities Division of the Georgia Secretary of State's Office first investigated Riner in 2004 for possible securities violations after Express Factors filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in June 2002, and after at least two investors filed civil suits against Riner in Newton and Rockdale counties seeking more than a combined $1.5 million in damages, legal fees and lost investments.

The Secretary of State's office completed its investigation into Riner's activities in March 2005 and turned the case over to the Newton County District Attorney's Office.