Mere hours before the Days of ‘47 Rodeo was set to kick off its first bull-riding event in Salt Lake City, the rodeo’s former chairman was sentenced Monday to probation and ordered to repay thousands of dollars he unlawfully rerouted from the event into his own account.
Brad Floyd Harmon, 55, pleaded guilty in May to unlawful dealing with property by fiduciary — a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
But on Monday, 3rd District Judge Denise Lindberg suspended the prison term, so long as Harmon repays the money and adheres to the terms of his probation for three years.
Those terms include staying out of trouble with the law, completing a "Thinking Errors and Theft" class under supervision of the court and completing 25 hours of community service per month for the next three years.
According to charging documents, Harmon took about $304,000 in funds intended for the rodeo and put that money into his own account.
The Days of ‘47 Inc. committee told Unified police detectives last year that they’d found a $15,867 check issued to the rodeo from a clothing company, but no evidence of the payment in their records. When the committee called the company about the check, the company said someone did cash it, according to the charges.
The committee identified Harmon as the person who allegedly deposited the check into a separate account. They fired him days before the annual event.
An internal investigation followed, in which the committee found more checks and funding that would have been under Harmon’s control but that they had never received, according to the charges.
Days of ‘47 Inc. claimed that Harmon, appointed as chairman of the rodeo committee in 1997, quietly created a separate business entity for the rodeo in 2002 called Days of ‘47 Rodeo Inc. without informing them or getting approval, according to a resolved lawsuit over use of the name.
Detectives found that five companies had paid for advertisements at the rodeo that the committee could not account for, and that Harmon had been routing those checks to the account of his new, separate company.
The chief financial officer had asked Harmon several times about the rodeo finances, and Harmon allegedly assured him that all funds connected to the rodeo were being provided and reported to Days of ‘47 Inc.
But between 2002 and 2011, police said, about $268,000 in checks made out to "Days of 47 Rodeo" were deposited into a Wells Fargo account, of which Harmon was sole signatory.
By March 2011, that account was empty.
Detectives also found a Cyprus Credit Union account that existed from April 2011 to March 2012 that belonged to Harmon, where similar checks totalling about $36,000 had been deposited.
A board member told detectives that all withdrawals from those accounts should have been spent on the rodeo, but investigators instead found they’d been spent on everyday expenses like dry cleaning bills, gas stops and trips to the grocery store, according to the charges.
Harmon was originally charged with three second-degree felonies — the maximum penalty for each was 15 years in prison — but the charges were reduced when Harmon entered a plea agreement with prosecutors and began paying restitution before he was formally sentenced.
As of Monday, the judge determined, he still had to repay $25,000 to the rodeo, and was ordered to pay an additional $1,500 in court fines.
The Days of ‘47 rodeo was set to begin Monday evening with a professional bull-riding event at EnergySolutions Arena.
Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.