Guilty plea in Utah scheme that took in $49 million
A South Jordan man has pleaded guilty to a felony fraud charge for his operation of a real estate and investment Ponzi scheme that took in $49 million from investors.
Kenneth Case Tebbs signed a statement this week admitting he committed fraud in the operation of Twin Peaks Financial Inc. and MNK Investments Inc.
Tebbs, in a statement signed in advance of a guilty plea, said that in soliciting investments to purchase residential houses and undeveloped lots in Salt Lake and Utah counties he promised an annual return of up to 18 percent plus an origination fee of up to 5 percent. He promised investors that he would make monthly interest payments and return their principal within one month to two years.
About 90 people invested from $15,000 to $11.3 million each from January 2005 to October 2007 while the companies were operated as a Ponzi scheme, according to court documents.
Tebbs said he decided to expand the business in 2006 to focus on larger subdivision projects. That move, however, left the company with insufficient cash to meet its obligations and fund the developments.
Tebbs then began to create false documents and use "new investor money to make interest payments to [previous] investors, commonly known as Ponzi payments, and in doing so created the false and misleading pretense that Twin Peaks was successful and able to draw interest and principal payments from the business' profits," court documents state.
Of the $49 million he took in, $37 million went back to investors. About $17 million was lost, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office, if overpayments to certain investors are included.
"Mr. Tebbs accepts full responsibility for his actions and is extremely remorseful for the harm he has caused his victims," his court-appointed attorney, Jaime Zenger, said in an email.
Twin Peaks filed for bankruptcy in November 2007.
A court-appointed trustee, Salt Lake City attorney Duane Gillman, said in a report to the court that the company took in about $150 million, only part of which was taken in while it operated as a Ponzi scheme. But it kept no books, he told the court.
The bankruptcy case remains open as the trustee seeks the return of monies paid to certain investors and others.
Tebbs was charged in October of last year. Twin Peaks Financial and MNK Investments were operated by Tebbs and another South Jordan man, according to documents filed in bankruptcy court. But the U.S. Attorney's Office declined to say if the second man is or was the subject of an investigation.
Sentencing for Tebbs is set for June 19.