Fake lawyer pleads guilty in multiple fraud schemes
FARMINGTON — A West Bountiful man who fooled a wealthy investor and even his own father into believing he was a high-powered lawyer has pleaded guilty to 16 felony charges in what a prosecutor says was a “spider web” of fraud, forgery and money laundering.
Robert Sinclair Argyle, 36, agreed to a plea bargain Sept. 22 that resolved six cases pending against him in Davis County. Several of the charges, including theft, communications fraud and money laundering, are second-degree felonies that each could draw a sentence of one to 15 years in prison. The Davis County Attorney’s Office dropped about two dozen other charges in return for the guilty pleas.
The biggest case, involving 31 charges and 10 guilty pleas, stemmed from the theft of more than $500,000 from an Arizona man and his heirs while Argyle was handling their assets. Charging documents said Argyle hoodwinked associates, including two local law firms and his own father, into believing he was a top Stanford law graduate. Argyle does not have a law degree.
In June 2017, Argyle allegedly transferred more than $616,000 from the man’s account into his own, then after the man died, tapped into his life insurance proceeds and wrote $3,800 in checks from it for his own purposes. Argyle’s father was the account’s trustee and his son was working out of his office.
Of the $616,000, Argyle spent almost $400,000 on himself, transferred about $100,000 back to the Arizona man and the Internal Revenue Service got the rest, charging documents said.
A Utah Attorney General’s Office investigator said agents found narcotics and an illegally possessed firearm in Argyle’s office. A review of transactions showed Argyle spent tens of thousands of dollars over several months on a Mercedes, toupees, travel, lodging and food, and paid several thousand dollars per month to rent a large home in North Salt Lake.
In other charging documents, Argyle was accused of faking a big-time legal pedigree to land a job with a Salt Lake law firm. He was fired after being found out, but he then allegedly pulled the same fraud on a Weber County law firm before it, too, discovered the sham.
Other cases alleged Argyle engaged in identity fraud and forged checks while trying to buy a home in West Bountiful and that he used a relative’s identifying information to rent a home in Farmington. Another indictment said he forged a letter from that relative falsely recanting her testimony against him.
“Robert Argyle victimized a lot of people over a significant period of time and we are happy to be bringing them justice,” Gage Arnold, a deputy Davis County attorney who handled the cases, said Thursday.
Arnold said Argyle used money from the investment and insurance frauds, for instance, to make a down payment on a home. “It’s crazy how all of these cases are intertwined,” Arnold said. “It’s a big spider web.”
The prosecutor said he will urge 2nd District Judge Ronald Russell to sentence Argyle to state prison time, not more jail time or probation. “We believe this is a prison case,” Arnold said. Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 3.
Argyle’s attorney, Mark Arrington, said the plea bargain was a “pretty fair resolution” to the cases. He said based on the state sentencing matrix, he will recommend Argyle not be sent to prison, noting his client already has been at the Davis County Jail for 18 months. Arrington acknowledged Argyle owes his victims “a lot of money,” which would be an aggravating circumstance considered at sentencing.
“This is not something he has done his whole life,” Arrington said. “Before that year, he lived a pretty normal life. When some people go off the rails, they go a little bit for a little time. And others go way off in one big leap.”
Arrington said Argyle has been a model prisoner, a trusty who is the lead baker in the Davis jail.