A dispute over an allegedly stolen trailer has turned into an extortion investigation of a Kaysville city councilman.
After the Davis County attorney’s office declined to file charges on theft allegations brought by Kaysville Councilman Dave Adams, prosecutors began investigating Adams for allegedly extorting the accused trailer thief, according to a recently unsealed affidavit for a search warrant.
The case also raises questions about Adams’ relationship with Davis County Sheriff Todd Richardson.
Richardson reopened the theft investigation as a favor to Adams, who was reportedly unhappy with the outcome of the original probe, according to the affidavit. Adams also may have tried to used his relationship with the sheriff to leverage a “payoff” regarding the trailer, the affidavit says.
The case also has touched the Utah attorney general’s office, where Attorney General Sean Reyes or one of his staffers may turn out to be a witness, according to the affidavit.
Adams had accused Layton businessman Daren Deru of stealing his trailer. Farmington police — who investigated the case instead of Kaysville police because of potential conflicts — brought the case to the Davis County attorney’s office, which in March declined to file charges.
Farmington police then asked Davis County prosecutors to investigate Adams for alleged extortion because Adams had reportedly demanded Deru pay $250,000 for the trailer, which was “not damaged, or missing or reported [stolen],” the affidavit says.
Months later, Craig Webb, an investigator with the Davis County attorney’s office, told Adams he was being investigated for extortion. Adams then reportedly had a conversation with Reyes about the extortion investigation, leading Webb to believe Reyes could be a witness in the case, according to the affidavit.
The search warrant affidavit — which details numerous interviews and recorded conversations — requests Adams’ phone records.
Events began in late December 2016, when Adams telephoned Deru, the owner of Bulldog Sod, and demanded $250,000 for the trailer, the affidavit says.
“Daren [Deru] said he told Dave [Adams] that there must be some confusion over the ownership and they could work it out,” the affidavit says. But, according to Deru, Adams didn’t want to work out ownership, he wanted $250,000 — by midnight.
Adams then reported Deru to police for theft, according to the affidavit.
But after Farmington’s probe didn’t result in charges, Richardson, the Davis County sheriff, allegedly opened two separate investigations into the theft accusation, because Adams asked him to, according to the affidavit.
Kaysville Police Chief Solomon Oberg said Saturday it is unusual for an agency to investigate a case that another police agency has already cleared.
“That’s bizarre,” Oberg said. “I am aware that the [Davis County] sheriff’s office has done that before. I don’t know of any other agency that really does that.”
Sheriff’s Lt. Susan Poulsen and Sgt. Jon West confirmed to Webb that Richardson asked them to review the case as a “favor” to Adams, the affidavit states.
Poulsen reportedly told Richardson she “didn’t think it was appropriate” to reinvestigate, the affidavit says. But she and West reviewed the original investigation and determined it had been thorough.
“The sheriff responded [to the officer’s findings] with, ‘Oh, OK, that works. Thanks,’ ” the affidavit states.
Webb learned of a second reinvestigation opened by Richardson because another of his officers, Detective Ty Berger, called the Farmington Police Department for an interview about the case, the affidavit states.
Berger began the interview by apologizing for the “rift” between the departments caused by reinvestigation, the affidavit states. Farmington Police Chief Wayne Hansen later told Webb he was frustrated that Richardson would humor Adams’ attempt to get a different outcome to the investigation, the affidavit says.
Farmington police recorded their interview with Berger, who explained that he’d asked Adams a series of questions, according to the affidavit: “Are you out the value of the trailer? He said no. Did the welding destroy the use or intended use? He said no. Can you use it today for the same intent you bought it with? He said yes.”
Berger also informed Farmington police he had told Adams he didn’t see an issue with the original investigation, the affidavit states.
In July, Adams filed a small claims suit against Deru, Deru’s family and Bulldoog Sod for $10,000, according to the document. According to the small claims documents, the trailer dispute started in June 2016. A trial is scheduled for Jan. 18 in the Davis County Justice Court.
In August, Webb interviewed Deru over Adams’ alleged demand for money. Deru told Webb that Adams said, “If I get you on the criminal side, then I can nail you to the fence on the civil side of things ... That’s how I’m going to get my money out of you ... You can just make it easy now and we can iron some ... get money ironed out now, or we are going to take you to the cleaners some other way,” the affidavit states.
In October, Webb had Deru record phone calls and send text messages to Adams to get more information about the requested $250,000, the affidavit states. In those calls and texts, Adams allegedly agreed to drop the lawsuit and make sure the theft investigation against Deru was closed, in exchange for $11,500 (rather than the previously requested $250,000) from Deru, the affidavit states.
On Oct. 4, the two planned to meet at the Davis County Justice Complex, where the sheriff’s office is located, to complete the deal, according to the affidavit.
But Adams instead was greeted by Webb, who told Adams he was being investigated for theft by extortion, the affidavit states.
Adams responded by phoning Richardson and saying, “I guess this is some kind of setup to try and get me for extorting him,” according to the affidavit.
When Adams hung up, Webb told the councilman he wanted to know more about his conversations with the sheriff and asked to look at his phone and, specifically, any communication with Richardson, the affidavit says.
Webb wanted to know if Richardson knew Adams was coming to the sheriff’s office parking lot to get money from Deru, the affidavit states.
When Adams did not answer the question, Webb told him “his phone was used in a crime by arranging the payoff with [Deru] for not just the civil payoff, but having the sheriff verify the criminal complaint [against Deru],” the affidavit says.
After Adams then called Richardson a second time, the sheriff came out to the parking lot and spoke to Webb, according to the affidavit.
Webb told Richardson that Adams and Deru had conversed about settling their civil complaint and “getting rid of” the criminal investigation. Webb also told Richardson that Adams wanted the sheriff to personally confirm to Deru that the theft investigation was closed.
Richardson told Webb that Adams had only asked him to be “a third-party witness to a civil thing being cleared out,” according to the affidavit.
Richardson also denied asking his officers to investigate the theft accusation, according to the affidavit. Webb then told Richardson what he had read in Berger’s report, which said Richardson had requested the probe.
Richardson then acknowledged he’d had a conversation with Adams about having the detective review Farmington’s investigation, according to the affidavit. Richardson also said he did not remember asking West to look at the case, the affidavit says.
Kaysville Detective Sgt. Shawn McKinnon said Adams later told him about the parking lot meeting and explained how he and Deru planned to go to court, drop the lawsuit and then go to the sheriff’s office and drop any ongoing investigation, the affidavit states.
McKinnon said that, at a later meeting, Adams told him he had been in contact with Reyes about the extortion investigation.
The affidavit states that Adams ducked out of a City Council meeting Oct. 5 for about 23 minutes — which McKinnon told Webb was Adams talking to Reyes on the phone about the Oct. 4 meeting at the justice court complex.
Webb later contacted the attorney general’s office, believing Reyes — or someone else in the office — might be a witness in the extortion case, according to the affidavit.
However, Webb’s attempts to interview Reyes about what Adams told him were “sidetracked” by Reyes’ staff, the affidavit states.
Attorney general’s office spokesman Daniel Burton said Saturday he would attempt to comment for the story, but might be stymied because of the holiday weekend.
Calls on Saturday to the Davis County Sheriff’s Office were not returned. Adams declined to comment. Calls to Deru were not returned. Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings declined to comment on the investigation.