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A federal judge in Utah sentenced an Atlanta resident to prison on Friday for fraud and money laundering in connection with a real estate project in Vernal.

U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball sentenced Martin A. Pool, 44, to 6½ years in federal prison after his guilty plea to fraud and money laundering charges. He was ordered to pay $8 million in restitution to the victims.

Pool and co-defendant Armand R. Franquelin, 57, Liberty, Utah, pleaded guilty in May to the fraud that involved a real estate project in Vernal.

The two admitted they had persuaded investors to convert traditional Individual Retirement Accounts into self-directed accounts and invest in the Haven Estates project with promised returns of 8 percent to 20 percent.

In pleading guilty, the pair admitted they had used investor monies for personal expenses and to make payments to other investors in what is known as a Ponzi scheme. The project was foreclosed on after they failed to make loan payments.

Sentencing for Franquelin is set for Sept. 22. He also agreed to the $8 million restitution.

Typically fraud victims get very little if any money returned to them.

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