This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
A 48-year-old Draper resident pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to one count of fraud, admitting he operated a massive Ponzi scheme that owed investors at least $44 million when it went bust in 2009.
Travis Wright, the former owner of Waterford Funding, entered the plea under an agreement with prosecutors who will recommend he receive an eight-year prison sentence and be required to pay restitution to victims.
As Wright left the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups in Salt Lake City, a victim who sat through the proceedings confronted him and said, "You destroyed my career. You're a pig."
The man said his grandmother had lost $2.1 million by investing with Wright but he declined to give her name or his.
Wright ignored the man and left the courthouse. He is to return on July 26 for sentencing.
Wright ran Waterford Funding and related companies from September 1999 to March of 2009, taking in $170 million that was to go to real estate projects with earnings used to pay investors from 8 percent to 44 percent interest over nine months.
"I did not intend to run a Ponzi scheme, i.e., taking in funds from new investors to make interest payments to old investors," Wright said in his written plea agreement. "However, over time, I realized and knew that my commercial real estate projects were unable to meet interest payments and principal due investors."
A trustee overseeing the Waterford companies has told a bankruptcy court that the operation was largely a Ponzi scheme from the beginning, though it did have some legitimate investments. Those investments, however, lost money overall.
Taking in account the total amount of investor money received, Waterford Funding is likely the second-largest financial fraud in Utah history after the VesCor companies run by Ogden business man Val Southwick, who is serving a state prison sentence.
Wright was charged late last year with the count of mail fraud to which he has pleaded guilty. The charge was in connection with an investor identified only as M.L., who poured $100,000 into Waterford.
Judge Waddoups accepted the plea but said a final decision won't be made until the sentencing hearing, when he hears from victims.
Before Waterford went under, Wright lived in a Holladay home worth several million dollars that had been owned by former Utah Jazz player Jeff Hornacek. He also had numerous stuffed animals from safaris to Africa, a large collection of guns and many vehicles, as well as expensive watches and jewelry.
Those items have been sold by the bankruptcy trustee, accountant Gil Miller.