Judge sentences Utah resort promoter Jenson to prison
Marc Sessions Jenson, the key figure in an allegedly felonious effort to create an exclusive $3.5 billion resort above Beaver, was sentenced Thursday to back-to-back, zero- to-five-year prison terms for an unrelated fraud case.
Third District Judge Robin Reese sent the 51-year-old former Holladay resident to the Utah State Prison for failing to pay a single cent of restitution to two victims of an unfulfilled 2000 business deal to buy a bicycle company.
After Jenson's May 2008 plea in abeyance agreement, Reese had given him three years to pay $4.1 million in restitution to Salt Lake County investors Morris Ebeling and Michael Bodell. If Jenson had, the court would have cleared his record of three third-degree felony counts of selling unregistered securities.
But instead of repaying the victims, Jenson moved to California and lived a lavish lifestyle in multimillion-dollar residences, Deputy Attorney General Scott Reed said. Citing bank records secured by an Attorney General's Office investigator, Reed said Jenson also "went through $9 million, none directed to the victims in this case."
While defense attorney Greg Skordas argued that 60 days in the Salt Lake County Jail had changed Jenson and asked the judge to put him on probation so he could pay restitution, Reed contended "the community cannot afford for the court to take that chance. â¦ He's had his chances and should be taken to the prison forthwith."
The judge agreed. Reese imposed consecutive zero- to five-year sentences for the first two felony counts and a concurrent zero- to five-year sentence for the third. He is still requiring Jenson to pay restitution, plus interest, upon getting out of prison.
Reese said he based his decision on Jenson's failure to pay the men back on his conviction years earlier for failure to pay federal income tax and a "pattern of you raising money, making promises and not repaying [people]." He said the sentence had nothing to do with felony charges the Attorney General's Office filed in August against Jenson and his brother, Stephen Roger Jenson, 46, of Sandy, over the proposed Mount Holly Club above Beaver.
In that case, the AG's Office accused Marc Jenson of eight second-degree felonies and Stephen Jenson of 11 felonies for alleged communications fraud, money laundering and a pattern of unlawful activity in soliciting investments that would have turned little Elk Meadows ski resort into a gated community with a private ski resort and a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course.
But Mount Holly went bankrupt before it started. An investor who acquired it in foreclosure opened the resort last winter as a public ski resort called Eagle Point.
Jenson, handcuffed and wearing a blue jail uniform, apologized in court to Bodell and Ebeling for "the harm I've caused them. I accept full responsibility." He asked the judge to give him another chance to repay the $4 million, contending his previous efforts to raise the money were thwarted by unnamed people who sent messages to his business contacts "and overturned what I was setting up."
"I'm horrified this has come this far," he said, pausing for a lengthy time, "but I'd like the chance to make it right."
Ebeling and Bodell encouraged the judge to deny that request, contending they have waited 11 years to get their money back and did not believe Jenson would live up to his promises.
"I don't want restitution from another victim," Ebeling said afterward. "Justice was done. Mercy cannot rob justice. The judge gave him the opportunity for mercy with the plea in abeyance. Jenson's free choice was to ignore the mercy the judge had given. The judge made justice supreme."
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