Victims of a massive Utah-based Ponzi scheme testified Tuesday that what they were not told made the big difference in their decisions about whether to invest their retirement savings.
The victims testified in 3rd District Court against Shawn Moore, a top manager of a group of real estate development companies headquartered in Ogden and generally known as VesCor. The company's owner, Val Southwick, is serving a prison sentence of at least 17 years for the scheme, in which more than 800 people were bilked out of at least $180 million.
Moore, 43, of Centerville, is facing 12 felony charges for his part in the real estate investment scam that operated from about 1990 until 2007, when it collapsed. Southwick pleaded guilty to nine felony charges related to the Ponzi scheme in which money from new investors was used to pay off earlier investors to make it appear the company was prosperous.
The hearing Tuesday was before Judge Kate Toomey, who will decide whether Moore should be bound over for trial on charges that include six counts of securities fraud, five counts of sales of securities by an unlicensed agent, one count of engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity and one count of abuse of a vulnerable adult. The hearing will continue today.
Moore sat at the defense table, rapidly chewing gum and writing on a note pad, as victims recounted their pre-investment dealings with him.
Under questioning by Assistant Attorney General Charlene Barlow, Michael LeDuc of South Weber said he met with Moore in early 2004 at VesCor's offices after hearing of the company from family members who also had invested. Barlow asked what he would have done if Moore had told him the company had no audited financial statements and that Moore did not know the financial condition of the company.
"I wouldn't have invested," said LeDuc.
During cross examination, defense attorney Kenneth Brown pressed LeDuc several times for specifics of what Moore had told him that had been untruthful.
Finally, LeDuc said, "I guess it's not so much what he told me as what he didn't tell me."
LeDuc and other victims said they had not been told that VesCor had twice been the subject of orders from the Utah Division of Securities for violations of state laws, or that Southwick had $1.2 million in judgments against him in lawsuits. They also were not given detailed information about the company, its officers and their business histories.
Brown did seem to make a point when Linda Shumway of Pleasant Grove said she and her husband made their decision to invest more from the recommendation of a fellow worker than on what Moore told her. But when pressed to say what Moore had told the couple that was false, she responded, "Telling us we were going to make that much interest."
Shumway was promised 14 percent annual interest on her $52,000 investment.
Bill Hammons, a retired real estate developer, also faces 10 criminal charges for allegedly illegally selling investments and taking commissions in the VesCor case. The Division of Securities continues to investigate other individuals involved with VesCor.