A federal judge Friday ordered a suspect accused of participating in a $511 million fraud scheme connected to a polygamous sect to remain in jail pending trial.
It marked the second time in 72 hours that Isaiah Kingston lost a bid to leave jail.
Friday’s ruling by Judge Brooke Wells at downtown Salt Lake City’s federal court seems to assure that Kingston will remain behind bars for weeks or months. Wells scheduled a five-week trial to begin Oct. 29, but that is likely to be postponed.
Kingston, 37, was listed as the chief financial officer of Washakie Renewable Energy. He is charged with two counts of money laundering.
Wells focused on Kingston’s role in moving $52 million to Turkey as a reason not to grant him release before trial. Wells was concerned that money could be used to help Kingston flee to Turkey, a country currently not extraditing suspects to the United States.
“You paint your client as a pawn — a weak person who is vulnerable to the desires of his brother and co-defendant,” Wells told defense attorney Scott C. Williams.
“Yet, he is responsible for the transfer of $52 million,” the judge added.
Kingston’s defendant-brother, Jacob Kingston, 42, is charged with counts of fraud related to what was supposed to be tax credits for the manufacturing of biofuel. Prosecutors contend Washakie actually bought and sold biofuel and laundered money to Turkey. Jacob Kingston on Friday had his detention hearing rescheduled to Sept. 17.
Both brothers — who belong to a polygamous sect, the Davis County Cooperative Society, also known as the Kingston Group — remain in the Weber County jail.
Attorneys gave dueling descriptions Friday of Isaiah Kingston.
Federal prosecutor Leslie Goemaat presented evidence that Washakie transferred $134 million to Turkey and that Kingston oversaw the transfer of $52 million of that.
“Fifty-two million dollars is more than enough to live an exceptionally comfortable life for the rest of his life,” Goemaat said.
Kingston’s wife is pregnant with the couple’s ninth child. Geomaat said that family is another incentive for him to flee to Turkey. Rather than miss his children in prison, he argued, he could go to Turkey and his family could follow him there.
Wade Berrett, a special agent with the U.S. Department of Defense who worked with the IRS when the federal investigation began, testified about text messages showing Kingston worked to send money to an intermediary, who said he would intimidate and bribe witnesses. The intermediary was actually working to collect incriminating evidence against Washakie.
Williams, the defense lawyer, argued release pending trial is the default for defendants like his client — accused of a white-collar crime and who have no criminal record. Williams showed Wells photos and video of Kingston’s modest-looking house in West Valley City, where he and his family live within 1,500 square feet. Another 900 feet is leased to a niece, Williams said, to generate extra money for his family.
Kingston has traveled abroad but always returned home, even after he knew the government was investigating him, Williams argued. And the text messages don’t make clear how much his client knew about what the intermediary said he would do about the witnesses.
About 30 family members sat in the gallery to support Kingston, including his mother, wife and some of their children. The family left Wells’ courtroom with faces that ranged from sullen to frowning.