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Judge OKs freeze of assets from $29M Kaysville Ponzi scheme

By Mark Shenefelt - | Feb 9, 2023

BEN DORGER, Standard-Examiner file photo

The United States Courthouse in Salt Lake City is pictured Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019.

KAYSVILLE — A federal judge has agreed to freeze the assets of individuals and corporate entities connected to a $29 million Ponzi scheme whose alleged operator died last year.

The Securities and Exchange Commission filed suit last fall in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City, making a claim for the “equitable disgorgement” of assets the agency contends were gained through a long-running fraud by Stephen Romney Swensen of Kaysville.

Judge Robert Shelby on Monday issued a stipulated order freezing assets, requiring an accounting and protecting documents. The order also imposed a preliminary injunction against Swensen’s primary corporate entity, Crew Capital Group LLC.

The SEC alleges Swensen promised safe, high-return investments with Crew Capital, which existed primarily on paper and had no employees other than Swensen. More than 50 victims lost money in the scam, many of them older investors who contributed their life savings.

In a Ponzi scheme, early investors are paid regular income, the perpetrator making those payments with money given by later investors, until the fraud unravels.

According to the SEC suit, Swensen got wind in April 2022 that he was being investigated. He died on June 6. The SEC complaint, filed in October, names as defendants Swensen’s estate; Crew Capital; his widow; a woman who received gifts and living expenses from Swensen; and three other corporate entities.

In court filings, all defendants have denied wrongdoing, the individual defendants saying they had no knowledge of the fraud.

Attorneys for the estate, Crew Capital, Swensen’s widow and two of the other companies, Wingman and Swensen Capital, agreed to the asset freeze order, according to the court record. All of those defendants’ assets are frozen, but the order allows the widow to use one bank account for reasonable living expenses, $6,000 monthly, for herself and a minor child, to pay attorney’s fees and to have access to new funds unconnected to the fraud investigation.

Further, the order freezes a home and a business property, attaching liens to them so they cannot be transferred without SEC approval.

Swensen Capital, meanwhile, will be allowed $12,500 for reasonable, ongoing operating expenses, according to the judge’s order. The entity was doing business as Bucket Bliss, an investment software company. Almost $1 million from the fraud was plowed into the business, the SEC alleged.

Wingman, a messaging app entity, also was operated by Swensen and received sums from the fraud, the SEC contended.

The SEC alleged that Stephen Swensen gave his wife at least $356,000, plus property and other assets, derived from investor funds.

He also gave more than $41,000 to a 30-year-old woman in gifts and for living expenses, the SEC alleged. Her attorney last week filed an opposition to the asset-freeze motion, asserting that she had no knowledge of the fraud. She said she bought some luxury goods with credit cards Stephen Swensen gave her and that some of the items could be returned.

The defendants’ attorneys also agreed to the injunction against Crew Capital from any further operations. In their earlier response to the lawsuit, the attorneys said Crew Capital is defunct and has not operated since Swensen died.


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