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Jury begins hearing Utah fraud case against ex-con

Published February 8, 2013 7:31 pm

Courts • Prosecutors claim Wayne Ogden operated real-estate company as Ponzi scheme.
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Bad grammar and spelling doomed an ex-con facing fraud charges, prosecutors told a federal court jury on Friday.

The panel began deliberating Friday afternoon on six charges of mail and wire fraud, stemming from Wayne Ogden's involvement in a real-estate investment company in 2001 and early 2002. The jury adjourned its deliberations after four hours and is to return Monday to the federal courthouse in Salt Lake City.

Prosecutors allege Ogden cut and pasted signatures as he created forged documents. The fakes allegedly allowed him to divert millions of dollars of new investor monies from an escrow account to pay earlier investors in order to make the operation appear profitable. The former South Ogden Eagle Scout also diverted tens of thousands of dollars for personal use, including buying a new BMW for his girlfriend, prosecutors say.

But in creating false documents, Ogden repeated the same grammar mistake — you're instead of your — numerous times and misspelled a word on what was supposed to be another company's letterhead, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rob Lund told the jury in closing arguments.

"To say the defendant is not a good grammarian is an understatement," said Lund.

Ogden, 48, now of Koosharem in Sevier County, 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. In 2007, he was indicted by a federal grand jury for operating a real-estate development company, Sandy-based Empire Investment Group, as a Ponzi scheme. He backed out of a plea agreement in June 2011.

In her closing arguments, Ogden's attorney blamed others with whom the defendant worked for conducting the fraud. Mary Corporon also said Ogden tried to stop the fraud by repeatedly contacting an FBI agent, and then the agent's supervisor and state investigators.

"Does a man who is trying to perpetuate a Ponzi scheme call the FBI?" she asked.

Prosecutors had a different take. In the midst of attempting to inform on others, Ogden confessed to deep involvement in the crime, they said in introducing as evidence a statement created and signed by Ogden.

He testified this week that he did not conduct the operation through a small group of inexperienced employees whose names and signatures were on company documents. Prosecutors allege Ogden was the actual leader of the operation and took advantage of his employees' youth and lack of experience.

Ogden and his brother, Terry, also were indicted in 2011 for their operation of Paradigm Acceptance LLC, another alleged Ponzi scheme that took in $29 million in investor money. Trial is set for April.

tharvey@sltrib.com

Twitter: @TomHarveySltrib