SALT LAKE CITY — A Kaysville man described by prosecutors as “the quintessential wolf in sheep’s clothing” was sentenced to prison Friday for defrauding fellow church members of $2.4 million.
U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell ordered Robert Glen Mouritsen, 73, to spend a year behind behind bars, said the judge’s case manager, Chris Ford.
Mouritsen pleaded guilty in November 2019 to a felony wire fraud charge. Prosecutors dropped several other charges as part of a plea bargain.
In its argument for prison time, the U.S. Attorney’s Office lambasted Mouritsen.
“Outwardly, he presents himself as a loving husband, caring father, trustworthy friend, and devoted member and former stake president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacob Strain said in the document, filed Sept. 1.
“In reality, he is a manipulator, a thief, and a liar who uses his ‘righteousness’ as currency and preys on the goodwill of his trusting friends and associates,” Strain wrote.
Mouritsen stole $2.4 million from 13 identified victims from 2006 until August 2018, when he was charged, prosecutors said.
Mouritsen has not been jailed during the case, receiving permission to remain at home due to medical problems.
Ford said Mouritsen will remain free until the judge orders him to report to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. She said prison commitments are delayed during the coronavirus pandemic.
The case was delayed several times after Mouritsen presented a doctor’s note from his son-in-law “stating that he had to avoid all physical and emotional stress” because of heart trouble.
But the prosecution said those claims since were “directly refuted by Mouritsen’s cardiologist and surgeon.”
Further, Mouritsen violated his release conditions by contacting and giving false assurances to one of his victims, the prosecution document said.
“Given his long history of anti-social, sociopathic behavior, the United States has legitimate concerns for the financial safety and well-being of any community in which Mouritsen lives,” Strain wrote.
Mouritsen told investors their money was invested in “The Project,” an undertaking overseas. But the FBI said none of the money was sent abroad and Mouritsen spent it for personal uses such as paying off credit cards and going on vacations.
One victim told the FBI that Mouritsen’s “honesty is beyond reproach because they had knelt in prayer together often and Mouritsen’s knowledge of ‘the gospel and church history’ is extensive.”
Another victim reported that he knew his money was safe. He had ecclesiastical trust in Mouritsen because they had shared “special spiritual experiences.”
“Mouritsen preyed on this blind spot and like most confidence men, he deployed his prodigious ability to persuade people to believe in his multitude of deceptions,” Strain wrote.
He said several victims whom investigators have talked to still believe that Mouritsen, despite the indictment and guilty plea, someday will deliver on the promises of The Project.
“This case represents the quintessential Utah fraud scheme,” Strain said, adding that deterrence via prison time for perpetrators is vital.
“Robert Glen Mouritsen is the quintessential wolf in sheep’s clothing,” Strain said.
Prosecutors also served notice with the court that they intend to seek forfeiture of assets from Mouritsen, but said it is unlikely all the stolen funds will be recovered.
Mouritsen has received support during the case, even from afar.
Gordon Coleman, an Australian who met Mouritsen decades ago while he was a young soldier and Mouritsen was there on a church mission, said by email earlier this year that he still views the man as his “hero.”
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 led 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.”
Ford said Campbell also ordered Mouritsen to serve 36 months’ probation after he leaves prison and to pay $2.4 million in restitution.
Efforts to contact Robert K. Hunt, assistant federal public defender, who represented Mouritsen, were not immediately successful.
Utahns lost an estimated $1.5 billion in investment scams from 2008 to 2018, according to information provided by Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, who sponsored a bill to help people recover fraud losses.