SALT LAKE CITY — A 73-year-old Kaysville man convicted of defrauding fellow church members of $1.5 million has secured a third delay in his sentencing, this time due to COVID-19 concerns.
Robert Glen Mouritsen pleaded guilty Nov. 14, 2019, to one count of wire fraud, a federal felony, in a scheme that prosecutors said targeted neighbors in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were persuaded to invest in “The Project.”
The case has been marked by numerous delays since the U.S. Attorney’s Office filed it Aug. 29, 2018, most related to Mouritsen’s health.
Prosecutors tried to speed up the case in 2019 because they worried that one of the victims, a 91-year-old man, might die before he could testify.
Mouritsen had been scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday, delayed from the originally set February proceeding.
But U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell granted a new delay, until Aug. 12, after Mouritsen’s federal public defender filed a motion listing various concerns.
The defender, Spencer Rice, wrote that Mouritsen is at high-risk for COVID-19 given his age and his “many serious health conditions.”
Mouritsen suffered a heart attack in 2019 and “as a result underwent major heart surgery to save his life,” Rice said.
He said Mouritsen continues to recover but has never fully regained his health.
Mouritsen has strictly isolated himself at his home and therefore has not been able to meet with his attorney to confer about sentencing, Rice said.
Mouritsen has been busy taking care of his adult son, who has special needs, the defense attorney said.
Rice asked for a sentencing delay until late summer or early fall so Mouritsen has time to meet with his attorneys to prepare for sentencing “once the COVID-19 risk levels have been lowered to allow for the most vulnerable potential victims of the disease to meet with others in the community.”
Mouritsen, a former stake president in his church, cheated fellow church members over 12 years, a federal grand jury indictment alleged.
From 2006 through August 2018, Mouritsen “used his ecclesiastical leadership role to induce friends and fellow church congregants to provide him money in order to further a venture he called ‘The Project,’” the indictment said.
The indictment listed three investors, who lost $326,000, $165,000 and $33,000, respectively, but prosecutors said the total amount stolen from all victims was $1.5 million.
When victims asked about progress, Mouritsen said the supposed foreign investments were very sensitive and required confidentiality, prosecutors said.
Mouritsen used the money for personal purposes, according to the indictment.
In July 2019, during the first delay after his heart attack, U.S. probation officials petitioned to revoke Mouritsen’s bail status after they said he had illegal communication with one of the victims in the case.
Mouritsen also has his supporters.
Gordon Coleman said he was a young British soldier when he met Mouritsen in Signapore in 1968.
Coleman said Mouritsen was a missionary and helped establish the church in Singapore.
Mouritsen “was an inspiration and for many years he was, I suppose, my hero,” Coleman said in an email conversation with the Standard-Examiner.
“I was very shocked at this situation and have my thoughts on the reasons for his absolute stupidity,” said Coleman, of Adelaide, South Australia. “But I still love the man. Hate the sin, love the sinner.”
Coleman said he is “fully aware that he has committed a crime and therefore needs to make recompense ... but I can’t help believe that there is more to the story of the fraud than just greed.”
Coleman said the length of time of the fraud and the sums involved lead him to conclude Mouritsen “was using the money as a ‘wage’ because he was not able to earn because he was dedicated to the care of his beloved son.”