COVID-19 Fraudsters Charged in Utah for Allegedly Manufacturing, Selling and Distributing at least 120,000 Counterfeit COVID-19 Vaccination Cards
ST. GEORGE, UT – A former Kane County resident, who solicited money from victims with fraudulent promises that he was on the verge of receiving hundreds of millions of dollars – even billions – and would be able to pay a large return on their investment, will be arraigned Thursday morning in federal court in St. George.
Kurt Jurgens Bauer, 56, who has also lived in Las Vegas, is charged with three counts of wire fraud and two counts of false impersonation of an employee of the United States in a recently unsealed indictment. The arraignment will be at 9 a.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Kohler in St. George. Bauer is in custody. His continued detention status will also be considered during the Thursday hearing.
“This case involves a defendant who allegedly exploited the trust of hardworking and honest people, including elderly citizens of Southern Utah and Nevada,” U.S. Attorney John W. Huber said. “We prioritize investigations and prosecutions involving elderly victims. As I’ve said before – we revere our elders, we do not defraud them,” U.S. Attorney John W. Huber said today. “This case is also a priority for us because it includes allegations Bauer impersonated federal judges and a federal court administrator as a part of his fraud scheme.”
“Kurt Bauer is suspected of preying on some of the most vulnerable people in our community. We take fraud violations seriously, especially when these crimes are committed against the elderly who tend to be more trusting of such schemes. We will continue to work with our partners in the FBI and US Attorney’s Office to aggressively pursue, investigate and prosecute cases like the one involving Kurt Bauer,” Kane County Sheriff Tracy Glover said today.
“Kurt Bauer’s alleged crimes were based on lies that he perpetuated for many years,” said Special Agent in Charge Paul Haertel of the Salt Lake City FBI. “The hundreds of thousands of dollars he’s accused of swindling from his victims, including the elderly, didn’t go toward legitimate investments, but to pay his bills. While the victims may never see their money again, we hope the hard work of investigators and prosecutors sends a message that ultimately, crimes like this don’t pay.”
According to the indictment, beginning in 2011 and continuing until April 2020, Bauer devised an advance-fee scheme to solicit money from victims using a variety of what the indictment alleges were fraudulent representations and promises.
Bauer told victims that the United States District Court for the District of Nevada had frozen funds due to him, according to the indictment. Bauer told victims that the court required “bond” payments to secure the frozen funds, and he solicited victims to make the payments – often on a weekly basis, the indictment alleges. Bauer had various explanations for the court’s action.
Bauer represented to victim investors that the court was going to release funds to him in the near future. Once the funds were released, the victims would receive large returns in exchange for their upfront payments.
In reality, Bauer fabricated the information he provided to victims about his wealth and the court process to release funds. Bauer has relatively little wealth, the indictment says, apart from money he took from victims. He had no prospect of receiving large amounts of money and no court was holding money Bauer was entitled to. And, the indictment alleges, Bauer had no way of paying victims the promised returns.
The victims’ bond payments were not sent to a court, the indictment alleges. Bauer spent the money on himself including paying hotel bills, credit card payments, and restaurants, among other things.
The indictment alleges Bauer received more than $300,000 from victims, including at least $200,000 from victims identified as C.B., age 82, and L.B., age 80, in the indictment.
To further the scheme, Bauer created false identities of a New York attorney, a federal court employee, and a billionaire that he used to make misrepresentations to and solicit payments from victims. The indictment alleges he created phone numbers and email accounts for the false identities. Communications between the victims and the false identities were actually between the victims and Bauer or one of his accomplices.
In furtherance of the scheme, Bauer and his accomplices impersonated federal judges and a federal court administrator during communications with victims to convince them the court process was real and to persuade victims to continue making payments.
Bauer was arrested following the return of the sealed federal indictment in late July. He had an initial appearance on the charges July 30, 2020, in federal court in St. George.
He faces up to 20 years in federal prison for each count of wire fraud and up to three years for each count of false impersonation of an employee of the United States if convicted of the charges. Indictments are not findings of guilt. Individuals charged in an indictment are presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty in court.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in St. George and Salt Lake City are prosecuting the case.
U.S. Attorney Huber expressed appreciation for the significant investigative efforts of the FBI and the Kane County Sheriff’s Office, who are assisting with the case.