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Utah fraudsters plead guilty

Published May 22, 2014 5:02 pm

Courts • Victims lost $9M in Ponzi scheme involving Vernal real estate project.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A man from George and another from Utah have pleaded guilty to securities fraud and money laundering for a scheme in which investors lost about $9 million.

Martin A. Pool, 44, of Atlanta, and Armand R. Franquelin, 57, of Liberty, Utah, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City to charges that had been filed in April.

The two admitted that from 2006 to 2010 they persuaded investors to convert their traditional IRAs to self-directed IRA accounts and invest in a residential real estate project known as Haven Estates in Vernal through a company called the Elva Group.

The men promised monthly returns of 8 percent to 20 percent but now have admitted they used funds for personal expenses and to pay interest to other investors in what is know as a Ponzi scheme.

Pool and Franquelin agreed to pay $9 million in restitution, including more than $500,000 to Alabama residents.

Pool is scheduled for sentencing on July 31 and Franquelin on Aug. 18 before U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball. The plea agreement recommends a 6½ year sentence in federal prison.

Utah, Alabama and federal agents investigated the case.