Eight Individuals Charged In Alleged Scheme To Get Money, Assets From 80-Year Old Widow In Washington, Utah
Victim Paid Them At Least $273,849.20 In Exchange For False Promises
SALT LAKE CITY – A federal grand jury returned a 10-count indictment Thursday afternoon charging eight individuals in connection with an alleged fraud scheme to obtain money and assets from an 80-year-old widow who lives in Washington, Utah. The indictment was unsealed Tuesday afternoon.
The indictment alleges the defendants, who have family relationships, conspired to obtain money and assets from the victim in exchange for false promises to perform work on her property. To further advance the scheme, one of the defendants engaged in romance fraud by enticing the victim to enter into a romantic relationship. He used the romantic relationship to manipulate the victim into giving him money and assets.
The indictment includes one count of wire fraud conspiracy, five counts of money laundering conspiracy – spending, two counts of destruction or concealment of records and tangible objects in a federal investigation, one count of concealment of a document or object, and one count of tampering with a witness or victim.
“We prioritize investigations and prosecutions where seniors are targeted for victimization,” U.S. Attorney John W. Huber said today. “We revere our elders, we do not defraud them.”
Individuals charged in the indictment are Frank Gene Powell, age 51, of Hurricane, Bubby Mern Shepherd, age 58, of Lodi, California, Gloria Jean Powell, age 74, of St. George, Faye Ann Renteria, age 42, of Hurricane, Terrence Quincy Powell, age 23, of St. George, Rocky James Powell Mott, age 40, of Hurricane, Martell Taz Powell, age 25, of Cedar City, and Angela Ruth McDuffie, age 53, of Lehi.
Seven of the eight defendants are in custody. Shepherd will have an initial appearance on the indictment in California Wednesday.
Frank Powell, Faye Ann Renteria, Gloria Powell, Rocky Mott, Taz Powell and Angela McDuffie will have an initial appearance on the indictment at 9 a.m. Thursday in St. George, Utah, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Kohler. A summons was issued to Terrence Quincy Powell to appear at the hearing.
The indictment alleges that starting around March 2019 through October 2019, several of the defendants began soliciting payments from L.N. by offering to perform routine repairs and odd jobs on her property. L.N. created a list of requested repairs, such as painting the exterior of the house, resurfacing the driveway, doing yard work, hammering protruding nails on the roof, fixing a door handle on a car, removing grease spots on the driveway, and installing carpet on an outdoor deck.
According to the indictment, most of the jobs they promised to do were never completed or the quality of work was extremely poor and fell well below any expectation of professionally done work. The victim paid the defendants at least $273,849.20, both indirectly and directly, for this work.
Frank Powell engaged in the romance fraud scam with the victim and told L.N. that he intended to marry her while maintaining a domestic partnership with Renteria. According to the indictment, he is legally married to another woman not involved in the conspiracy.
The money laundering counts allege four defendants, Frank Powell, Gloria Powell, Renteria, and Taz Powell, used money derived from their alleged unlawful activity to buy cars, a Polaris Razor, and a trailer.
Frank Powell and Renteria are charged with two counts of destruction of records or tangible objects in a federal investigation – specifically cell phones – in an effort to impede the investigation of the case. They are also charged with tampering with a victim in an effort to avoid prosecution. Powell and Renteria, according to the indictment, contacted L.N. through written correspondence and phone calls in which they made misleading statements and attempted to persuade L.N. to withhold information from law enforcement and help them avoid prosecution. Frank Powell and Faye Renteria were arrested on a federal complaint in November charging them with tampering with a victim or witness.
The potential maximum penalty for each count of wire fraud conspiracy, destruction or concealment of records or tangible objects in a federal investigation, concealment of a document or object, and tampering with a witness is 20 years in federal prison. The money laundering counts are up to 10 years per count.
Indictments are not findings of guilt. Individuals charged in indictments are presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty in court.
Combatting elder abuse and financial fraud targeted at seniors is a key priority of the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Utah. Elder abuse is a serious crime against some of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens, affecting at least 10% of older Americans every year. Together with federal, state, local and tribal partners, the Department of Justice is committed to combatting all forms of elder abuse and financial exploitation through enforcement actions, training and resources, research, victim services, and public awareness. This holistic and robust response demonstrates the Department’s unwavering dedication to fighting for justice for older Americans.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys in Utah are prosecuting the case. The FBI is investigating the case. Agents with Utah Adult Probation and Parole have made signification contributions to the investigation.