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Project's owners try to distance themselves from Jenson's troubles
By Mike Gorrell
The Salt Lake Tribune
Published January 7, 2007 12:00 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
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A central figure in the effort to turn bankrupt Elk Meadows ski area into a super-exclusive resort will be in Utah's 3rd District Court on Monday to face state charges that he is a con man.

Marc Sessions Jenson, 46, of Holladay, will be arraigned on five counts of securities fraud and one count of racketeering, all second-degree felonies, for allegedly providing misinformation to three Salt Lake County businessmen who invested money with him for various ventures in 2000 and 2001.

The Utah Attorney General's case against Jenson also maintains he failed to disclose to the investors that he had been sentenced to federal prison in 1991 and served time for failing to file a federal income-tax return, had declared bankruptcy at least twice, had faced numerous federal and state tax liens, and had been the defendant in multiple civil suits filed by other disenchanted business partners.

Although the criminal charges represent the most serious allegations Jenson faces, they are not the only ones. He also is a defendant in two civil cases in U.S. District Court for Utah and a third in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

The bankruptcy case involves the failed National School Fitness Foundation, which sold fitness programs and equipment to more than 600 schools in Utah and 19 other states, but didn't live up to promises to repay them with money from federal grants and corporate donations. Last month, a federal jury in Minnesota convicted foundation executives Cameron Lewis and his father, former San Juan County Commissioner Ty Lewis, of 29 felony charges of fraud and money laundering for operating a Ponzi-type investing scheme.

Jenson, according to a bankruptcy court trustee, played a peripheral role in trying to hide some of the foundation's assets.

He has played a more prominent role, though not that of direct owner, in the grandiose plan to convert Elk Meadows, a quiet little resort 18 miles above Beaver, into the "Mt. Holly Club," a gated community for up to 1,200 wealthy members willing to pay an initial one-time fee of $250,000 and annual dues of around $10,000.

Beaver County has approved a conceptual plan for the proposed development, which envisions a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, a private ski area, multimillion-dollar lots and equally expensive residences, and four recreation-oriented lakes. The projected value is $3.5 billion.

Downplaying ties: Jenson got involved with Elk Meadows in February 2003 when one of the 19 companies he is listed as managing, Nimbus Loan Fund LLC, loaned $3.6 million to the resort's former owner, a cash-strapped company called Meadows Operations Inc.

When Meadows Operations could not repay the loan with its 18 percent annual interest, Nimbus foreclosed. Meadows Operations went bankrupt. In the complicated bankruptcy proceeding that ensued, Jenson and Nimbus helped arrange for title to the bulk of the resort's assets to be transferred to CPB Development, a company that shares a parking lot with Jenson's businesses on a side street in Holladay called Phylden Avenue (4660 South).

CPB Development is one of the three co-owners of Mt. Holly Partners LLC, which is developing the exclusive resort. The others are MHU Holdings, a company registered in Delaware by a Rob O'Neil, and Ares Funding LLC, which is owned by Marc Jenson's brother, Stephen, and has the same business address as Marc Jenson's companies.

In a meeting last month with The Salt Lake Tribune, CPB Development owner Craig Burton and two hired public relations representatives insisted that Marc Jenson has no ownership interest in Mt. Holly Partners. "Any statements suggesting or implying the contrary would be categorically false," they said in a prepared statement. They contend that Marc Jenson is only an independent marketing consultant for the club, with no other financial connections.

Marc "has incredible marketing capabilities and so we felt, as owners, he could provide some help on that marketing process," Burton said of Jenson, whose picture had been featured on the Mt. Holly Club Web site (http://mt.hollyclub.com) until The Tribune began making inquiries about his relationship to the club in mid-December. Then his photograph was removed.

"He is a marketing consultant and his picture was there because of that. But we felt, with these ongoing proceedings, it was better to not even have him there," Burton said, referring to a preliminary hearing last month in which 3rd District Judge Joseph Fratto found the Attorney General's office presented sufficient evidence to bind Jenson over for trial on the criminal charges.

The Tribune had gone to the meeting, arranged with help from Jenson's attorney, Rebecca Hyde, expecting Marc Jenson to be there. But he did not show up. "Because of the trial," explained Mt. Holly Partners' spokesman Bill Quick, "[Marc] and his attorneys thought it would be best [for him] not to make comments. There will be an opportunity down the road."

CPB Development's Burton said he and the other Mt. Holly Partners owners were aware of the charges against Marc Jenson, but were not concerned.

"I can say without reservation I've known Marc for many years," Burton said. "I know little of the issues that are there. I've been made aware of those, but I never had any reason to question his integrity on the transactions I've been involved with."

Loan arranger: Court records show that other business associates clearly question Jenson's integrity.

"He's a predator. He's a financial predator," said Michael Bodell, one of the three Salt Lake County men who the Attorney General contends was defrauded by Jenson. Bodell is president of Bodell Construction Co., general contractor on the latest Salt Palace Convention Center expansion.

According to the criminal charges, in spring 2000, a mutual friend introduced Bodell to Jenson, whom he had known from a distance as a neighbor and fellow churchgoer. After a series of meetings, Bodell invested $1 million in a Jenson company, MSF Properties, which makes short-term loans with high interest rates until a borrower can arrange long-term financing. Jenson pledged to repay the money, with 25 percent interest, by year's end.

While that investment was outstanding, Jenson persuaded Bodell in August 2000 to invest another $4 million with him, this time to purchase the bicycle division of Brunswick Corp. The complaint says that Jenson told Bodell he was putting $4 million of his own money into the acquisition, assured him that his lawyer had done a due diligence check of the bike company's books and provided bank documents that suggested Jenson had access to $165 million to complete the purchase and operate the bike company.

At the same time, according to the Attorney General's charges, Jenson used a similar sales pitch to persuade Salt Lake County resident Morty Ebeling to invest $2.5 million into the bicycle company purchase, again with assurances that Jenson had his own money in the deal, this time $5.5 million.

Only later, after Jenson failed to make initial payments on the money he owed Bodell and Ebeling, did the alleged victims learn that Brunswick actually had sold its bike division to Pacific Cycle Inc. in January 2001. They also were informed that Jenson's assurances of financial backing were contingent on the bike deal going through. The Attorney General's charges state that Bodell got some of his money back after filing a civil lawsuit against Jenson, but still is owed $2 million, while Ebeling has received no compensation.

The Attorney General also alleges that Jenson defrauded Salt Lake County resident Ricke White, whom he met at a Ferrari dealership where another of Jenson's brothers worked. After a half dozen meetings in the first half of 2001, White agreed to invest $5 million into another Jenson company, Wilshire Investments LLC, set up to provide short-term, high-interest loans.

White was supposed to receive a 20 percent return on his "risk-free" investment, a deal sealed only with a handshake. But, once again, Jenson failed to deliver until White filed a civil lawsuit against him, the state maintains. So far, White has recouped only $3.5 million of his investment.

Posh life: The image of Jenson as a flamboyant pitchman in a world of fast cars and luxurious living was embellished further in a federal court lawsuit filed against him in November by Steven J. Hansen and his company, Colton Capital Partners.

Jenson wanted Hansen's wife, Wendy, to care for his elderly father. So to dissuade the Hansens from moving from the Salt Lake area to St. George, the civil lawsuit contends, Jenson flew the Hansens to Sun Valley several times on his private jet. He told them he frequently spent weekends at a posh hotel in Beverly Hills and invited them to his home, where he displayed "a fleet of luxury vehicles and what he told Hansen was a collection of watches worth over $4 million."

The lawsuit alleges Jenson persuaded Steven Hansen not to move to St. George and to invest $1.2 million instead in his loan-arranging businesses, at one point claiming, "I have access to money like you have access to air."

Hansen's main investment - $1 million - was made in November 2004 to a company recommended by Jenson, Utah Wetlands Co., which allegedly set up a mitigation bank to help ensure there was no net loss of wetlands because of land development. Hansen expected a return of 5 percent interest per month, but when his note came due a year later, he got nothing - and was told by the Utah Wetlands developer that the money actually had gone to Jenson.

In his lawsuit, Hansen contends he confronted Jenson, who acknowledged he had received the proceeds of the investment and would take personal responsibility for it. But Jenson refused to put his oral guarantee into writing and has not repaid the money. Hansen is asking the federal court to force Jenson to pay more than $3 million in damages, accusing him of fraud, racketeering, conspiracy and breach of contract.

The other federal court lawsuit accuses Jenson and others of fraud, racketeering and breach of contract in depriving R. Michael Anderson and his brother, Robert, both of Provo, of their $4.9 million interest in property in Midway that had potential to be developed into a resort.

In their August 2005 suit, the Andersons allege that Jenson and some conspirators manipulated multiple loan and purchase agreements, then stopped payment on a $700,000 check with the intent of causing the brothers to default on a loan, thus losing their 61 acres of resort property to foreclosure.

A similar allegation is lodged against Jenson within the Elk Meadows bankruptcy settlement.

Meadows Operations contended it was unable to make good on its debt to Jenson's Nimbus Loan Fund because it was counting on a short-term loan from Trinity Trust Financial Corp., a company Jenson recommended. But Trinity Trust unexpectedly backed out of the deal at the last minute, Meadows Operations said, enabling Nimbus to foreclose and setting the stage for the Mt. Holly Club to come into being.

Despite this litany of allegations, Mt. Holly co-owner Burton stands by Jenson.

"If he's convicted, we'll have to look at what his involvement is on that marketing side. We'll deal with that when it happens, if it happens. I think it's really an 'if,' but we'll let the process take its course."

Added company spokesman Quick: "We're confident that when the facts are all uncovered and the process is gone through, that Marc will be acquitted and we'll move forward."

mikeg@sltrib.com

* MT. HOLLY CLUB is a proposed gated community for members that would feature a golf course, a private ski area and multimillion- dollar lots.

The man

* TIMELINE: The litigious life of Marc Sessions Jenson. See PAGE E2



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