OGDEN -- The Utah Attorney General's Office won't file criminal charges following a lengthy probe of allegations that Envision Ogden engaged in fraud and money laundering.
"The focus of the investigation has been whether Envision Ogden improperly solicited contributions for local economic development projects which illegally ended up in the hands of political candidates," Scott W. Reed, criminal justice division chief for the Attorney General's Office, said Friday in a prepared statement.
"We did not find sufficient evidence of fraud or criminal intent on the part of Envision Ogden or its principal members to justify bringing felony charges for communications fraud or money laundering.
"Our investigation is now closed."
Reed said concerns by some individuals that the four-year statute of limitations for bringing felony criminal charges may have lapsed during the course of the investigation were not warranted.
"The events we have reviewed occurred in 2006 and throughout most of 2007," he said.
"Had we found sufficient evidence of fraud to bring criminal charges, the four-year statute of limitations would not have been an obstacle, since some of the questioned transactions occurred as late as November 2007."
The original complaint against Envision Ogden was filed by Dan Schroeder, a Weber State University professor.
The complaint stems from a $120-per-plate dinner Envision Ogden held at the Ben Lomond Hotel in February 2007, ostensibly to promote outdoor recreation and welcome Amer Sports Corp., which had just relocated to the city.
Money from the fundraiser was funneled to Friends of Northern Utah Real Estate, to bolster the campaign war chests of then-city council candidate Blain Johnson, who is no longer on the city council, and Royal Eccles, who failed to win election.
Johnson said he has never been contacted by investigators regarding the probe and declined to comment on Reed's decision.
Eccles and Abraham Shreve, the former head of Envision Ogden, could not be reached Friday for comment.
Envision Ogden donated $1,500 directly to Johnson's campaign and $20,700 to FNURE, IRS records show.
FNURE then provided $10,990 to Johnson and $9,700 to Eccles from the funds it received from Envision Ogden.
State investigators also talked with Chris L. Dallin, a spokesman for McKay-Dee Hospital, about the hospital's $1,000 contribution to Envision Ogden.
The hospital was contacted by Ogden Mayor Matthew Godfrey about being a sponsor at the Ben Lomond dinner, according to an investigative report from the Department of Public Safety.
Dallin told investigators that McKay-Dee and Select Health, its insurance division, split the $1,000 donation, each giving $500.
Select Health wanted to gain a stronger position with Godfrey and get his consideration as an insurance option for municipal employees, the report states.
Godfrey has said he regularly solicits funds for political candidates and issues.
Dallin said there was no mention nor was it ever asked if Envision Ogden was a political action committee, adding that McKay-Dee has strict guidelines prohibiting it from taking political stands or endorsing political candidates and specific issues, according to investigators.
Godfrey said Friday he was always confident that nothing would come from the Envision Ogden investigation.
"I'm not surprised by that," he said. "It was clear the investigation was politically motivated from the beginning. I'm glad to see it go away."
Reed's decision is disappointing but not surprising, Schroeder said in an e-mail responding to a request for comment.
"The lesson here is that, if you're well connected in Utah, you can commit fraud and nobody will come after you for it," he wrote.
"If you're the mayor of Ogden, you can use your office to solicit contributions for a bogus, unregistered organization that will then use the money to help your campaign," Schroeder continued.
"If you're running for city council and you're a friend of the mayor, you can launder your campaign contributions to conceal their source.
"It's sad to live in a place where laws apply to some of us but not others."