Two men were charged Wednesday with swindling two Utah families out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by convincing them to invest in a bogus emerald operation.
Oregon native Jack Phillips, 77, and 58-year-old James Elliott were charged in 3rd District Court with two counts each of securities fraud, a second-degree felony.
In two separate incidents described by the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office, Phillips and Elliott allegedly convinced two Utah couples in 2007 to give them $30,000 for what they characterized as a risk-free investment in emeralds that would triple their contribution in three months.
Prosecutors allege that Phillips also convinced one man to sell his business and give him the profit, which amounted to $270,000, under the promise that he would get a return of $900,000 from the fake enterprise. The couples wired their money to a Tennessee bank account that investigators later discovered listed Elliott, his wife and children as the principal signers. They found that most of the money in that account was spent on personal expenses that had nothing to do with the purported investment.
Along with promises of skyrocketing returns, the alleged victims were also promised that they would get their money returned to them if the investment didn't pay off and that Phillips and Elliott already had buyers lined up for the emeralds.
Phillips was convicted in Oregon of unlawful gambling in 2002, court documents state. He was ordered as part of his sentencing not to engage in any financial counseling or services with anyone.