- Associated Press - Friday, June 3, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Witnesses testified this week how a former Utah County commissioner and a businessman posed as Mormon officials to allegedly scam them out of hundreds of thousands of dollars to invest in an industrial park and rail line.

Former commissioner Gary Jay Anderson and businessman Alan Dean McKee face counts of fraud and other charges. They are accused of sending letters and making phone calls impersonating Mormon officials who supposedly backed the project.

A judge decided after the evidentiary hearing Thursday that there’s sufficient evidence to send McKee to trial. McKee plans to plead not guilty to the charges, said his attorney Rebecca Skordas.

A decision is pending about whether Anderson will go to trial. His attorney asked for more time to present his case. They say Anderson was a fraud victim of McKee’s, having invested more than $200,000 of his own money.

Mark Brennan, regional manager of a Minnesota construction company that paid McKee nearly $400,000, said the men pitched him a project that would build a railroad to church property in the small town of Elberta, Utah.

He said his company received at least three letters purportedly from the Mormon church real estate development arm. Brennan said McKee told him that he had met with Mormon church president Thomas S. Monson about the project.

As the project kept getting delayed, Brennan said he received numerous phone calls from a man identifying himself as Gary Stevenson, then a presiding bishop for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and now a member of the church’s top governing board. The man would tell Brennan the church supported the project.

Prosecutors say those calls came from a number registered to McKee’s home.

At one point, Brennan says he even met at a church building in Salt Lake City with a person who called himself a church official.

Mormon church officials said after the charges were filed in February that the religion had no knowledge of what they describe as a “brazen scheme.”

David Cannon, vice president of an a Mormon church development company called the Suburban Land Reserve, testified that he never sent any letters from his office. He also said Stevenson was never involved in the deal.

Cannon said McKee approached the church about the project in 2012, but church officials told McKee they weren’t interested because they couldn’t get ahold of alleged investors.

McKee spent some of the money he was given for the project to travel to Ireland, London, Hawaii and Las Vegas and buy ski tickets and pay credit cards, forensic accountant John Curtis testified.

Anderson’s attorney, Nathan Crane, said none of the victims sent any money to Anderson.

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