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Posted: 4:47 PM- In one of the largest fraud cases in Utah history, Ogden businessman Val E. Southwick was charged in state court today with nine felony charges for allegedly bilking 817 investors out of $140 million in what is described as a massive Ponzi scheme involving a web of real estate development and financing companies.
Southwick's attorney, Max Wheeler, said the filing of state charges and a civil complaint by the Securities and Exchange Commission took place after negotiations. Southwick will plead guilty to at least some of the charges and will cooperate with authorities still trying to unravel his financial affairs and trace where investors' money went, Wheeler said.
A court appearance set for Friday has been postponed and not yet rescheduled, the attorney said.
The SEC complaint filed in federal court alleges Southwick engaged in fraud through the creation or use of 150 companies. He allegedly received $180 million from investors, according the SEC, assuring them their money was secured and that the projects were profitable.
"Instead, Southwick operated a massive Ponzi scheme, paying existing noteholders with funds from new investors," the SEC complaint says.
In more than 17 years in business, Southwick raised more than $445 million from banks and professional and unsophisticated investors.
Money from investors often was used to repay other investors and pay Southwick and his family's living expenses, the SEC said.
Southwick, 62, has been under investigation by state and federal regulators, the IRS and Securities and Exchange Commission since at least 2006. He faces up to 15 years in prison on each felony count. Southwick filed for bankruptcy in federal court through one of his companies, VesCor Capital Inc., in May 2007, about a year after he stopped paying investors promised interest.
According to court testimony, the interlocking companies were used as vehicles through which Southwick or company officers moved funds around to pay investors or bills, depending on which entity had money at the time. Money from investors went into various companies and was used to pay obligations not necessarily related to the manner in which investors were told their funds were to be used.
Among creditors are several hundred Utahns and investors from 29 other states and three foreign countries.