Former real estate guru Rick Koerber likely will be represented by a court-appointed attorney in his retrial in federal court on charges he operated a Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors of millions of dollars.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Warner has scheduled a status conference for Friday, by which time he plans to have made the appointment. At that time, Koerber can choose to be represented by the publicly paid appointee or to represent himself, the magistrate judge said.
At a brief hearing on Wednesday, Koerber, who is not a lawyer, said he would like to be represented by counsel.
An 18-count indictment issued in January accused Koerber of taking about $100 million from investors and using about half as interest payments, paying it back to investors to give the appearance of profitability, from 2004 to 2008. One count was dismissed before the trial began.
When the enterprise stopped making payments in 2007, investors were owed about $47 million, according to the indictment, which was issued in January. Those investors lost life savings, retirement funds and equity in their homes that they had taken out as loans and poured into Koerber‘s businesses.
Koerber was originally indicted eight years ago, but defense attorney Marcus Mumford — who had previously represented Koerber — challenged the evidence and how federal agents and prosecutors had investigated his client. A federal judge threw out significant pieces of evidence in 2011 and 2013, and had tossed the case altogether by 2014, due to speedy trial issues.
But prosecutors appealed part of the dismissal to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which sent the case back to Utah for reconsideration. That process led to the current indictment, which includes allegations of securities fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and attempted tax evasion.
Koerber’s first trial ended Oct. 16 in a mistrial when the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict after deliberating for seven days following eight weeks of testimony.
Mumford — who said he was working for free — said outside of court that he was told the jury ended its deliberations with 11 of the 12 siding with the defense. Koerber has continued to insist that the allegations against him are false.
However, federal prosecutors said in a motion requesting a hearing to set a new trial date that they learned from “candid and informative discussions” with jurors who volunteered their perspectives that Mumford’s claim about the jury deliberations have no merit.
Mumford cannot be appointed by the court to handle the retrial and paid with public funds because he is not on the list of attorneys who fulfill such assignments when defendants can’t afford to pay their own attorneys.
Warner has said April 2 is a potential trial date, but that has not been finalized.