SALT LAKE CITY — Two Utah businessmen worked to bribe officials, intimidate witnesses and destroy evidence, prosecutors said in asking a judge to keep the pair in jail pending trial for allegedly defrauding the government of $511 million.
Jacob and Isaiah Kingston also planned to flee to Turkey before they could be prosecuted, the U.S. Attorney's Office alleged in U.S. District Court documents unsealed Tuesday.
The Kingston brothers, owners of the Washakie Renewable Energy plant in Box Elder County, were arrested Thursday and are held in the Weber County Jail on felony money laundering charges that could land them in prison for decades if convicted.
The indictment, unsealed Friday in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City, said the brothers and a co-defendant schemed to have Washakie and front companies file false claims for refundable fuel tax credits from 2010 to 2016.
The Kingstons pleaded not guilty Friday.
Prosecutors detailed the Kingstons' connection to the Davis County Cooperative Society, also known as The Order, which has 7,000 members in Utah and surrounding states and owns hundreds of businesses.
Order members are "bound together through ties of family, religion and the practice of communal living," prosecutors said of the polygamist group.
The brothers are a flight risk because they could be hidden by Order members throughout the West, prosecutors argued.
Jacob Kingston and his family were arrested Thursday at the Salt Lake City airport as they prepared to board a flight to Turkey, where the brothers had invested millions, bought a house and a bank and forged ties with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prosecution document said.
The Turkish government in 2016 issued a press release touting the Kingstons' announced plans to invest $950 million in the country. A prosecution witness said Jacob Kingston bragged about getting a police escort from the Istanbul airport, and also said he was hiring a Turkish language tutor.
Prosecutors said they worried as well that the Kingstons might flee the United States via BoraJet, a Turkish airline owned by their co-defendant, Lev Dermen, who was arrested in California.
Of the $511 million gained by the Kingstons in renewable energy tax credits, they invested at least $130 million of it in Turkey, according to prosecutors.
In the United States, the Kingstons and co-conspirators in 2016 destroyed evidence ahead of a series of raids by federal agents at Washakie offices and other Kingston holdings, according to prosecutors.
Other allegations included that the brothers paid an intermediary to threaten and injure two witnesses who could testify against them, and offered bribes to a reported law enforcement official they referred to in text messages as "Commissioner Gordan."
"I want to tell you again you are doing the Lord's work," Jacob Kingston said in a text message to the intermediary, according to the document.
Authorities also revealed that the Kingstons were tipped off to the 2016 raids.
"Locations that had been described by witnesses as full of records were found nearly empty," the prosectors' document said.
"The investigation has not revealed how the defendants learned that the government obtained sealed search warrants," but witnesses reported Kingston and Dermen, a California businessman also indicted in the case, "talked of having law enforcement contacts willing to provide them with information about ongoing covert investigations."
Kingston claimed to a witness that a federal agent tipped him off about the search warrants, the document said.
"I know who has been orchestrating the hatred against me and my family," Kingston said in another text message.
A hearing on the government's detention request is scheduled Wednesday.
Court records do not list an attorney for Jacob Kingston. A lawyer for Isaiah Kingston declined to comment Monday.