Polygamy, fraud and luxury cars on tap in Utah trial

In this photo provided by the Davis County Sheriff's Office shows Lev Aslan Dermen. Openings arguments are set Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020, in Utah for a California businessman who prosecutors accuse of being a key figure in a $511 million tax credit scheme carried out by two executives of a Salt Lake City biodiesel company linked to a polygamous group. The men from the polygamous group pleaded guilty last year to money fraud and other charges and are expected to testify against Lev Aslan Dermen, who has pleaded not guilty. (Davis County Sheriff's Office, via AP)

Associated Press

SALT LAKE TRIBUNE — A Utah polygamist testifying against a California businessman who prosecutors say helped him carry-out a nearly $500 million biodiesel fraud scheme testified that he and his brother gave millions of dollars of what they made to the polygamous group to which they belong.

Jacob Kingston said he and his brother Isaiah Kingston gave nearly $30 million to the Utah-based polygamous group called the Davis County Cooperative Society, also known as the Kingston Group or The Order, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Jacob Kingston has previously said in the trial that the group aims to practice communal living with members sharing some of their earnings.

Jacob Kingston agreed to testify against gas station owner Lev Dermen after he pleaded guilty last year to money fraud and other charges. Dermen has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts including money laundering and mail fraud.

Dermen didn’t come up much during the first day of cross-examination by Dermen’s attorney, Mark Geragos, who instead focused on Kingston’s polygamous practices and other alleged frauds.

Jacob Kingston acknowledged on the stand in the Salt Lake City courtroom that he and his brother both married cousins.

Geragos said during opening statements last month that Kingston comes from an “incestuous” polygamous group that is always scheming to defraud the U.S. government in what the group calls “bleeding the beast.”

A spokesman for the group, Kent Johnson, has called the allegations “categorically false.”

Johnson didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment about the new allegation that Jacob Kingston gave millions to the Davis County Cooperative Society

Geragos contends that Kingston was the mastermind in the scheme and that Dermen is a reputable businessman who owns a chain of gas stations in California.

Prosecutors counter that Dermen pushed the Kingstons to expand the operation exponentially by using elaborate money transfers through Turkey and Luxembourg, and shipping fuels from countries such as Ireland and India through Panama.

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