Utah jury hears clashing accounts about alleged Ponzi operator
A prosecutor and a defense attorney spun opposing tales on Wednesday to a federal court jury that began hearing the trial of ex-con Wayne Ogden, who is accused of orchestrating a Ponzi scheme involving a land deal in Colorado.
Assistant U.S. District Attorney Mark Hirata told the jury that Ogden got back into real estate investment not long after he got out of prison on a 1997 Weber County conviction of theft by deception and money laundering.
Ogden of Koosharem in Sevier County wanted to "get back in the real estate game" after his 2000 release despite parole restrictions, so he used a handful of inexperienced people in their 20s to act as a front in two companies that Ogden actually controlled, Hirata said.
"Wayne Ogden was the source of all things deceptive," Hirata told the jury of nine women and five men, including two alternates. "The scheme you are about to hear begins and ends with him."
Ogden, 48, was indicted in 2007 by a federal grand jury on charges of mail and wire fraud, and aiding and abetting a crime, in what Hirata said was a Ponzi scheme in which some of the money went to pay off initial investors.
When the scheme began to collapse, Ogden left a note at one of the businesses saying "the jig is up" and then went to the FBI and admitted criminal conduct, the lead prosecutor said, but Ogden blamed the scheme on others, contending that his name was not on checks and other documents.
In contrast, Ogden's attorney, Mary Corporon, told the jury that visit to the FBI was just part of Ogden's effort to cooperate with state and federal authorities to expose connections between real estate fraud and the illegal drug trade.
Corporon said Ogden began cooperating with authorities while in prison and became a confidential informant for the Drug Enforcement Agency, and that he also worked with the state Division of Securities. He went to the FBI to try to expose a scheme before it collapsed, she said.
But, said Corporon, "the government decided to prosecute only Wayne Reed Ogden."
Ogden faces a second trial in federal court in April for allegedly running another Ponzi scheme with brother Terry using a St. George company called Paradigm Acceptance LLC.
The company allegedly told investors it made money by paying off the debt of distressed homeowners and then helping them renegotiate a mortgage at a lower rate. But some of the $29 million in investor funds went to pay other investors, the July 2011 indictment alleges.
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