SALT LAKE CITY — A Kaysville man cheated fellow church members of $524,000 in an investment scam over a 12-year period, a federal grand jury indictment alleges.
Robert Glen Mouritsen is free pending trial after pleading not guilty Aug. 30 to felony wire fraud and money laundering charges, according to U.S. District Court records.
From 2006 through August of this year, Mouritsen “used his ecclesiastical leadership role to induce friends and fellow church congregates to provide him money in order to further a venture he called ‘The Project,’” the indictment said.
Prosecutors also filed court papers declaring their intent to seek $1.5 million in asset forfeiture from Mouritsen.
The indictment listed three investors, who lost $326,000, $165,000 and $33,000, respectively.
Mouritsen, 71, told investors the Project included a series of complicated international transactions that involved governments in Asia and Europe and required the help of attorneys and bankers, the indictment said.
He told them the deals were subject to confidentiality agreements and he could not disclose many details, according to the document.
Alluring projections included promises of 15 percent annual returns and another 100 percent return when The Project was completed.
The Project was conducted under the auspices of the Westheather Development Co., which is not a registered business entity, the indictment said.
After investors began asking questions, Mouritsen “lulled them into a false sense of security,” according to the indictment, by saying the Patriot Act and the Department of Homeland Security were holding up the transactions. He said more money for attorneys’ fees would help speed the process, the indictment said.
The grand jury document alleged Mouritsen used the investment proceeds for himself.
The indictment did not say which church’s members were involved, and U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Melodie Rydalch said she could not provide further information beyond that included in the indictment.
According to LDS Church News archives, business consultant Robert G. Mouritsen was president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Kaysville Utah Crestwood Stake in 1989-1997.
Robert K. Hunt of the Federal Public Defenders office was assigned to represent Mouritsen. Efforts to contact him were not immediately successful Wednesday.
Mouritsen is scheduled to go on trial Nov. 5.
The defendant was arrested by U.S. Marshals and appeared in court Aug. 30. He was allowed to remain free pending trial with the conditions that he report regularly to the pretrial office, have no contact with witnesses or the alleged victims and refrain from possessing firearms or other dangerous weapons.