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A Logan woman will spend two to 30 years in prison after she misled investors and defrauded them of more than $1.7 million.
Lori Ann Anderson, 54, pleaded guilty to two counts of securities fraud and one count of pattern of unlawful activity, all second-degree felonies, on January 23, according to a news release from the Utah attorney general's office. She was sentenced Tuesday.
"Anderson's crime is especially egregious, as she has been previously convicted of fraud and she continued to prey on neighbors and friends," said Eric Barnhart, FBI Salt Lake City special agent in charge, in the release.
Anderson spent time in prison in 1992 after defrauding insurance-policy holders of $140,000, the news release says.
Keith Woodwell, director of the Utah Division of Securities, described the case as a "grim repeat performance, deluding unsuspecting victims into handing over their trust and money in a church environment."
He said in the news release that affinity fraud is the "most damaging white-collar crime, where fraudsters not only steal the nest eggs of Utah victims, but destroy their trusting nature as well."
A joint investigation with the FBI, the Utah Division of Securities and the Utah attorney general's office found that 46 people had lost more than $1.7 million as a result of Anderson's actions, the release says.
More than 10 victims, some in tears, addressed the court at the sentencing hearing, expressing a feeling of betrayal, according to the release.
Anderson formed a trading club named S.M.T.S., which allowed her to pool the money of friends who invested with her for day trading in Apple stock, the news release says.
She misrepresented the business' success to her investors, telling them she made returns of about 10 percent per year and never had a losing day trading, when she actually lost $300,000 trading between 2013 and 2015, according to the news release.
Despite these losses, Anderson sent investors false account statements that purported to show gains, the release says.
A search warrant for Anderson's home was issued in July 2015, and during the search, she admitted to lying to investors, the news release says. By the time of the search warrant, Anderson claimed she only had about $40,000 of the original $1.7 million in investor funds remaining.
Anderson's case demonstrates how easy it is for "any of us to fall victim to fraudsters with promises of high returns," Attorney General Sean Reyes said in the release.
Reyes said he urges Utahns to check the White Collar Crime Offender Registry, call the Utah Securities and Exchange Commission (801-524-5796) or contact the Utah Department of Commerce (801-530-6701).