Jurors in the Rick Koerber fraud trial had deliberated for approximately 38 hours by the time they left U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City on Thursday afternoon without having reached a verdict.
The 12-member jury will return on Saturday morning to continue discussions in the case of the former real estate guru, who is accused of illegal business dealings and running a Ponzi scheme.
The trial has lasted nearly eight weeks so far.
Jurors deliberated on Friday and on Monday through Thursday.
Jury selection was done on Aug. 21 (with a short break to view the eclipse), and 16 jurors, including four alternates, were seated. Opening statements were given on Aug. 22 and closing arguments last Friday; between those dates, the prosecution and defense spent 26 days presenting evidence.
A 17-count indictment accuses Koerber of taking appoximately $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. In addition, Koerber allegedly used the money for personal purposes but didn’t pay taxes on those funds.
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, prosecutors said.
But defense attorney Marcus Mumford told jurors in his closing argument that his client is innocent. He accused federal prosecutors of deception themselves, saying they presented only “snippets” of Koerber’s business dealings and purposely limited the evidence given to jurors.
Koerber admitted on the witness stand he did that at times take money from new investors to pay interest to previous investors to make the enterprise seem profitable. But he said the money was backed completely by equity in real estate and asserted that meant he was using the equity to pay interest.
In the early 2000s, Koerber touted himself as a guru of real estate investing and offered classes to teach his “Equity Milling” strategy. That led him to head a real estate investment operation that used that strategy and which ran, in part, on loans from investors.
On Friday evening, as the jury deliberated, Koerber told reporters that he still owes people money. The Utah County entrepenuer said he feels confident in the judicial procees and looks forward to “getting back to work” when this case is behind him.
Koerber was originally indicted eight years ago but Mumford challenged the evidence and how federal agents and prosecutors had investigated his client. A federal judge tossed out significant pieces of evidence in 2011 and 2013, and by 2014, had tossed the case altogether due to speedy trial issues.
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.