Accused real estate guru invested in sexy horror flick to raise funds for movie on Mormon church founder Joseph Smith

Filmmaker Richard Dutcher tells jury about his relationship with Rick Koeber, who’s on trial for alleged fraud.<br>

(Scott Sommerdorf | Tribune file photo) Rick Koerber, center, confers with his attorney Marcus Mumford in August 2014. Koerber is on trial on federal court on 18 charges related to his operation of a real estate investment business in Utah County.

Utah filmmaker Richard Dutcher told a federal court jury Monday that Rick Koerber put about $5 million from his real estate investment operation into a sexy horror movie called “Evil Angel,” with the goal of earning enough money to make another film about LDS Church founder Joseph Smith.

Dutcher testified at the beginning of the fourth week of trial for Koerber, who’s facing 18 charges that allege he took in about $100 million in investments and returned nearly half that back as interest payments in an alleged Ponzi scheme.

An indictment alleges that Koerber told investors their money would go to purchase single-family homes but that he also spent money for restaurants, personal expenses like luxury autos and the Dutcher movie.

Dutcher is the producer of movies such as “Brigham City,” “God’s Army” and “States of Grace.”

He testified that in the 2000s, he wanted to make a movie about Joseph Smith, who founded The Christ of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1830 in western New York. But he estimated that the project could take up to $17 million to “do it properly.”

Dutcher said he talked to Koerber about investing, and they decided to make a movie in a popular genre that might earn enough money so they could make the Joseph Smith project.

Koerber eventually put up $5 million for the horror flick now titled “Evil Angel,” including extra funds to hire star Ving Rhames, a veteran of action movies.

About midway through the morning court session, prosecutors played the trailer for the movie.

Koerber’s wife, Jewel, led two of their young children, who have been attending the trial every day, from the courtroom as it began. It featured movie gore and several sex scenes.

But Dutcher said by the time he presented the film to distributors in Los Angeles in 2008, the Great Recession had struck and no deals were made. Instead, Dutcher said, he turned to an international distribution company in Toronto.

The film was shown overseas and did well in various countries, but Dutcher said he wasn’t paid what he estimates should have been $2 million in box office earnings and the Canadian company went out of business.

“Financially, it didn’t turn out so well, so far,” said Dutcher.

Prosecutors have been asking investors whether they had been told Koerber was putting some of their money into movies in addition to real estate, and whether they would have invested had they known. They have said no to both questions.

Dutcher said he hopes to release the film again with a new title and several new scenes. Horror films make money, he said, and he estimated the film could earn between $18 million to $30 million.