Lead Defendant Pleads Guilty In Elder Fraud Scheme Targeting 80-Year Old Widow In Washington, Utah
Plea Agreement Includes 120-Month Sentence, $273,849.20 in Restitution
ST. GEORGE, UT – Frank Gene Powell, age 51, of Hurricane, Utah, the lead defendant in a significant federal elder fraud case targeting an 80-year-old widow in Washington, Utah, has reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors.
Powell pleaded guilty to all six counts he was charged with in a superseding indictment, including conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering, two counts of destruction of records in a federal investigation, concealment of a document or object in an attempt to impair the object’s integrity or availability for use in an official proceeding, and tampering with a witness.
Powell was on state parole at the time of his federal crimes after serving nearly 30 years in state prison for murder. While he was in prison, he received a 1-to-15 year sentence for sexually assaulting an inmate.
The plea agreement includes a stipulated sentence of 120 months in federal prison and an agreement that Powell will pay almost $274,000 in restitution to the victim of the fraud. The victim is identified as L.N. in court documents. The sentence and restitution are subject to the approval of the Court at sentencing. Powell will also forfeit two vehicles and faces a money judgment of $273,849.20. Sentencing for Frank Powell is set for May 20, 2020, at 2 p.m. before U.S. District Judge David Nuffer. The hearing will be in St. George.
“Powell is a career criminal who has fended off decades of rehabilitative attempts in the Utah state criminal justice system. He’s a convicted murderer and sexual predator, who has now turned his criminal efforts to elder fraud while on state parole,” U.S. Attorney for Utah John W. Huber said today. “With these guilty pleas, he stands convicted of unconscionable crimes against a senior member of the St. George community. A 10-year sentence is very appropriate in this case and will help ensure that Utah will not fall victim to his crimes again.”
As a part of his plea agreement, Frank Powell admitted that from around March 2019 and continuing until about Feb. 6, 2020, he conspired with others to devise a fraud scheme with the specific intent to obtain money or property by means of fraudulent representations or promises. He agreed with his codefendants to engage in a scheme to defraud L.N. by soliciting money and assets in exchange for false promises to perform work for L.N. He also admitted he engaged a fake romantic relationship with L.N. as a part of his scheme to defraud her.
He admitted that he purchased a 2019 GMC Sierra using money he received as a part of his scheme to defraud L.N. Using money derived from criminal conduct is money laundering. Several of the counts he pleaded guilty to relate to efforts he took to impede and obstruct the investigation of the case, including concealing cellular phones and money.
Powell also pleaded guilty to witness tampering admitting that in November 2019, he engaged in misleading conduct toward L.N. in an attempt to persuade her from communicating with law enforcement officers investigating the case. Through written correspondence and phone calls, Powell and his codefendant, Faye Renteria, age 42, of Hurricane, made misleading statements and attempted to persuade L.N. in an effort to help them avoid prosecution.
Frank Powell’s mother and codefendant, Gloria Jean Powell, age 74, of St. George, also has reached a plea agreement in the case. She pleaded guilty to one count of concealment of a document or object, admitting she concealed or attempted to conceal U.S. currency with the intent to impair an FBI investigation. She admitted she aided and abetted her son, Frank Powell, and her daughter, Angela McDuffie, age 53, of Lehi, in the conduct.
Sentencing for Gloria Jean Powell is set for May 6, 2020, at 4 p.m. in St. George before Judge Nuffer. Her plea agreement includes a stipulated sentence of three months in prison or credit for time served at the date of sentencing, whichever is further from her Feb. 4, 2020, arrest date. She also will forfeit a 2010 Toyota Venza as a part of the case resolution.
Eight defendants were charged in a 10-count superseding indictment returned in early February. 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.
In addition to Frank Gene Powell, Gloria Jean Powell, McDuffie, and Renteria, other defendants include Bubby Mern Shepherd, age 58, of Lodi, California, Terrence Quincy Powell, age 23, of St. George, Rocky James Powell Mott, age 40, of Hurricane, and Martell Taz Powell, age 25, of Cedar City.
Charges are pending against the remaining six defendants in the case. A change of plea hearing is set for Monday in St. George for Renteria.
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 percent 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.