SALT LAKE CITY — Former Weber County swindler Wayne Ogden forged his co-worker’s signatures and altered documents, his former secretary testified at Ogden’s real estate fraud trial in federal court.
Lindsay Sinclair said Friday she was 19 years old when she started working for Ogden’s real estate company in 2002. And she trusted him to the point she signed promissory notes and quit-claim deeds when Ogden assured her she had no liability.
“I trusted him,” she said, and he was always able to reassure her when she saw him doing something questionable.
Such as when she caught him forging the name of Austin Davis, her husband and Ogden’s partner, on a document. She confronted him, she said, “And he just said, ‘Oh, those aren’t the final documents.’ ... He comforted me, like he always did.”
Since testimony began Jan. 24, more than 15 of Ogden’s former investors have testified to losing a total of nearly $7 million. According to the federal indictment, the Sandy-based Empire Investment Group that formed with others to flip houses during the flush real estate market of 2002 had turned into a Ponzi scheme by 2003.
New investor funds were going to pay returns to prior investors, instead of into an escrow account for development projects.
Ogden actually admitted as much when he walked into the Provo FBI office Jan. 27, 2003, plus admitted to forging documents and lying to investors, according to Friday’s testimony.
Ogden even provided written detailed, signed statements, FBI Agent James Malpede said in testifying to the meeting he and fellow agent Carol Covert had with Ogden that day.
Despite the signed confession, the FBI didn’t file formal charges until December 2007.
That five-year gap will likely be filled in by the defense on Monday as it begins its case, expected to call as many as 10 witnesses to the stand. The defense is expected to take as long to put on its case, a week or more, as the prosecution has to make its case to the 12-member jury.
In her opening arguments Jan. 23, Ogden’s public defender Mary Corporon said Ogden was signed by the Drug Enforcement Administration as a confidential informant in 2001 while still in the Utah State Prison for his 1998 Weber County Ponzi convictions.
Ogden still owes $9 million in restitution to his victims, mostly his Weber County friends and neighbors, in that scheme.
Friday under cross-examination Sinclair had to admit both she and Austin Davis were testifying with immunity from prosecution. She said she learned in late 2002 that Ogden was talking with the FBI.
“It was scary because we knew he had brought down Josh Christensen,” she testified. “I was just curious why he was talking to the FBI.”
Although it was a DEA case, she was referring to the 2001 federal prosecution of Ogden’s close friend, Josh Christensen. Ogden informed on Christensen’s drug peddling and was instrumental in his arrest, Corporon told the jury in her opening statement.
Formerly of South Ogden, Christensen was arrested at his North Salt Lake home in 2001. The DEA called him a major distributor of the date-rape drug GHB, and MDMA, or Ecstasy. He was sentenced to 64 months in federal prison in 2002.