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The trial for a Lowell man accused of operating a multimillion-dollar investment scam now may be delayed until later next year.

Richard E. Gearhart's attorney said Friday he will need more time to prepare his defense and may ask for a new trial date sometime after May 2018.

Attorneys for Gearhart, 67, of Lowell, and co-defendant, George R. McKown, 66, of Indianapolis, appeared Friday morning before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge John E. Martin for a pre-trial conference in the federal securities fraud case.

Gearhart and McKown, who were required to be present in court Friday, are pleading not guilty to allegations they stole money from a number of Region residents who did business with their asset preservation specialists business in Schererville.

Their trial currently is set to begin April 30.

Highland attorney J. Michael Katz, who represents Gearhart, said Friday he has another client in an unrelated fraud case whose trial is scheduled the same month in another court, and both are complex cases.

Chicago attorney Richard S. Kling, who represents McKown, said Friday he is attempting to negotiate a non-trial disposition of his client's charges and wouldn't object to a new date.

The court previously had moved the trial's date in July to avoid professional and family obligations for government prosecutors.

Matin told the attorneys to consult with their clients and for Katz to file a written request to continue the trial as soon as he can, so they can make the change in U.S. District Court Joseph S. VanBokkelen's trial calendar.

Allegations against Gearhart first became public four years ago when he filed for federal bankruptcy, and the Indiana Secretary of State's Securities Division began investigating complaints from his former customers.

The U.S. Attorney's office charged the pair in December 2016. The grand jury indictment alleges the defendants' fraudulent conduct resulted in more than $3.5 million in losses to those who dealt with Gearhart and McKnown between 2008 and 2013.

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Lake County Reporter

Bill has reported in Lake County since 1972 after graduating from Indiana University. He has worked for The Times since 1997, covering the courts and local government during much of his tenure. Born and raised in New Albany, Ind., he is a native Hoosier.