Three sent to prison in Utah building lot loan scam

Fraud • Multimillion-dollar scheme targeted Park City father, son.
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A Sandy man has been sentenced to 41 months in federal prison for his part in a construction fraud scheme involving lots near Park City.

Mauricio R. Munoz, 49, pleaded guilty last month to wire fraud and money laundering in connection with the scheme involving five lots in the Promontory Point development. U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart sent Munoz to prison during sentencing this week.

Two others who were charged in the case. Daniel Alfonso Blanco, 41, West Jordan, and Michael Russell Held, 48, Pullman, Wash., were each sentenced to 30 months in federal prison.

The three were ordered to pay $2.9 million in restitution, and Blanco and Munoz were ordered to forfeit $2.9 million in currency.

Justin Hatton, 40, of Salt Lake City, who was charged in a separate indictment in connection with the scheme, has pleaded guilty to bank fraud, money laundering and filing a false tax return. On Friday, he was sentenced to seven years and three months in prison and was ordered to repay about $8 million in restitution.

According to court documents, Munoz, Blanco and Held joined with Hatton in 2007 in falsifying paperwork and lying to persuade a father and son living in Park City to lend a them $4.4 million to place five expensive building lots under contract.

But the defendants greatly inflated the actual value of the lots, claiming they had made large down payments on the lots that were worth about twice what the father and son were lending, according to court documents.

Munoz and Hatton claimed that the bridge loans would be replaced by a series of construction loans and then with long-term financing.

Instead, court records show, the victims learned the lots were worth less than half the value of their loan. Construction financing was never obtained, and Hatton and Munoz channeled hundreds of thousands of dollars to themselves.

Court documents say that investigations by the FBI and IRS showed that Held, who forged false contracts and other documents, received less than $300 related to these transactions. Blanco was paid $10,000 for creating false closing documents and for helping to divert funds, documents say.