Liberty Shares in Hinesville, Ga., has raised $26 million in capital to exit the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

The $535 million-asset parent of Heritage Bank said in a press release Thursday that it sold 3.5 million shares at $7.50 each.

Kenneth Lehman, a former lawyer who buys large stakes in community banks, was among the investors to participate in the offering.

Liberty, which received $17.3 million from the Treasury Department in February 2009 and is one of a handful of banks that still owes the agency money, is behind on 23 dividends totaling $6.8 million.

“We intend to use some part of our capital raise to address our Tarp issue and exit the program completely,” Brian Smith, the company's interim chairman, president and chief executive, said in an interview.

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