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A 66-year-old Kaysville man who once touted his business as a "legal Ponzi scheme" was handcuffed Monday in a Salt Lake City courtroom and led off to prison for up to 30 years for the system that left 542 investors owed nearly $37 million.

Investor after investor walked to the podium in a crammed 3rd District courtroom and told Judge Mark Kouris how they came to trust Dee Allen Randall with hundreds of thousands of dollars of their money, only to see it disappear — along with their comfortable retirements, ability to visit grandchildren, and even knee and hip replacements.

Former firefighter and paramedic Joseph Sherm said that when he went to invest $150,000, he asked Randall whether there was anything that would indicate that his money wouldn't return what was promised or that it was not secure.

Randall said no, but, Sherm said, "within a short time, they were already short on payments that they were supposed to make."

Janice Rowberry said she worked for 38 years in a cheese plant, only to lose the $100,000 that she and her husband invested with Randall.

"We got lied to and lied to," she said.

Randall pleaded guilty in July to four counts of securities fraud and one of engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity.

He was the owner of financial businesses — Horizon Mortgage and Investment, Horizon Financial and Insurance Group and Horizon Auto Funding — and said his agents sold "Horizon Notes," which purportedly provided annual returns of 9 percent to 17 percent. Investors were told that their funds would be used to finance car loans and real estate.

Instead, about half of investor funds went to pay other investors in what's called a Ponzi scheme — a fraud that relies on constantly recruiting new investors whose money is used to pay earlier investors to make the business appear profitable and enhance its ability to continue to entice new money.

Randall took in about $70 million from more than 700 investors, court documents say, and used about half to pay earlier investors. 

In what's known as private placement memorandums, Randall disclosed to some investors that he was going to use their money to pay what was due to earlier investors, apparently hoping such a disclosure would get around securities law.

Investor Ray Child, 77, got Kouris' attention when he said he discovered that Randall had failed to disclose that he had filed for bankruptcy five days before he persuaded Child to invest and had not placed Child's funds in a real estate investment as promised.

When he confronted Randall at a bankruptcy court hearing, Randall told him "it was a legal Ponzi scheme." 

"He told me that," Child told Kouris. "It's on the court record, check it. Judge, he told me that."

With about 40 victims and family members in the courtroom, Randall asked Kouris for leniency and a chance to work and pay back some of what he owed victims. 

"I am deeply sorry for every single investor," Randall said, pledging to work every day to repay them.

But Kouris said Randall had left "carnage behind," and that he would likely not be able to repay investors more than a small fraction of what they are owed.

"You've literally ruined a number of people," Kouris said.

He gave Randall consecutive prison terms on three charges of securities fraud — enhanced because they involved retirement funds — meaning a sentence of nine to 30 years in prison. Randall also will serve concurrent sentences for one count of securities fraud and one of engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity. 

Bailiffs immediately handcuffed Randall's arms from behind his back and led him from the courtroom.