Former Latter-day Saint stake president pleads guilty to one count of wire fraud

A former Utah stake president in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is no longer seeking acquittal on allegations that he used his role in the church to orchestrate a phony investment scheme worth $1.5 million.

Robert Glen Mouritsen, 71, changed his “not guilty” plea Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City, pleading guilty to one count of wire fraud as part of a plea deal.

Mouritsen, of Kaysville, was charged with three counts of wire fraud and three counts of money laundering in a ploy that started in 2006, according to the indictment. Mouritsen, who was stake president in Kaysville from 1989 to 1997, used his “position of prominence to induce friends and fellow church members to give him money to further a financial fraud scheme he called ‘The Project,'” the indictment states.

Stake presidents oversee groups of Latter-day Saint congregations.

Mouritsen told investors that The Project “involved a series of complicated international transactions” dealing with governments in Asia and Europe and “required the help of attorneys and bankers,” that it was “expensive to keep The Project moving forward,” and that it was “subject to extremely strict confidentiality agreements and he could not disclose many details.”

He allegedly promised high rates of return, but he did not tell three victims — who lost more than $326,000, $165,000 and $33,000, respectively — that The Project didn’t produce returns, or that he “used a significant portion of investor money for his own personal use and benefit.”

The indictment seeks a forfeiture judgment of about $1.5 million, representing the value prosecutors say Mouritsen netted in the scheme.

The maximum penalty for each count of wire fraud is 20 years in federal prison and 10 years for each count of money laundering.