St. George Man Charged With Wire Fraud, Money Laundering In Real Estate Investment Fraud Scheme
SALT LAKE CITY – A federal grand jury returned a 32-count indictment Wednesday afternoon charging Edmund Edward Wilson, age 69, of St. George, Utah, with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and money laundering in connection with what the indictment alleges was a real estate investment scheme he ran through his company, Fountain Group of Companies of Utah, Inc.
According to the indictment, Wilson was president, owner, and director of Fountain Group, with its principal place of business in St. George. Through Fountain Group, Wilson purported to provide financing for real estate development projects throughout the United States. He conducted business by, among other things, entering into contracts with individuals he called “investors” who had real estate development projects and having those investors wire money into his Fountain Group account.
The indictment alleges that beginning in 2005 and continuing to around 2012, Wilson falsely represented to investors that his company could provide financing for real estate development projects for an advance fee of either $80,000 or $150,000 through an investment program he called “Substitution of Collateral Program.” The indictment alleges Wilson made misrepresentations to investors about the program., including that Wilson could obtain financing for their project within 15 to 180 days and that the program was so profitable that Fountain Group could provide development project financing that would be entirely “forgiven” within 18 months, although the borrower would then owe income taxes on the forgiven debt. In return, these investors would give Wilson a stake in the development project.
According to the indictment, when investors called Wilson to ask why they had not received funding for their projects within the time promised, Wilson falsely represented to investors that he needed additional money to cover various unforeseen fees and expenses, and that once these costs were paid, funds would be released for the development projects.
The indictment alleges Wilson failed to disclose to investors that he never provided any funding for any development project through his Substitution of Collateral Program and that he used a significant portion of the advanced fees for his personal benefit.
Later in the scheme, Wilson falsely represented to investors who had already invested in his program and to new potential investors that he could arrange financing of their development projects through his wealthy partner in Asia known as “the General.” In exchange for an investment of $80,000 to $150,000, investors would receive a forgivable loan for their real estate development project. The loan would come from “the General” who had access to millions of dollars in U.S. currency set aside for investment projects in the United States.
According to the indictment, Wilson represented that he and “the General” had partnered with the Department of Justice and the FBI to bring the U.S. currency from China back into the United States as a type of “unofficial stimulus package.” To release the funds back into the United States, certain taxes and fees had to be paid in China where the funds were being held.
Again, Wilson failed to disclose to investors that he had never provided any funding for any development project through his foreign investment program and that he used a significant portion of the advanced fees for his personal benefit.
The indictment alleges 19 counts of wire fraud and attempt and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 13 counts of money laundering. The potential maximum penalty for each wire fraud count is 20 years in prison. Each count of money laundering carries a potential penalty of 10 years in prison.
A summons will be issued to Wilson to appear in federal court in Salt Lake City on Oct. 16, 2013, at 10 a.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Evelyn J. Furse.
Indictments are not findings of guilt. Individuals charged in indictments are presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty in court.
The case is being investigated by special agents of the FBI and IRS Criminal Investigations. It is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Utah.