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Organizers of an event on Wednesday aimed at educating Utahns about avoiding financial scams hope that an LDS Church representative will deliver a strong message to help stem the tide of scams that have rolled over Utah in recent years.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is sending Michael Otterson, its managing director of public affairs, to the Fraud College at the University of Utah, where he is scheduled to speak at 11 a.m.
The event is free but registration is suggested at http://www.fraudcollege.org.
In 2010, the church declined to send a representative to a similar event, disappointing sponsors who had hoped church participation would help combat fraud in Utah. Since 2010, law enforcement officials say the problem has grown, with an estimated $2 billion worth of schemes under investigation or in Utah courts.
Other communities in Utah have been victims but LDS members are about 60 percent of Utah's population, and church participation is seen as a key to educating the public about the problem. The event is one of several efforts under way in the state aimed at combatting fraud.
Members of the church have been plagued by what's called affinity fraud, where scam artists target members of groups, such as religious or ethnic communities, who share common interests, bonds and friendships.
"I would really like to see the church give affinity fraud the same kind of treatment they have given to other types of abuse over the past decade or two," said Brent Baker, an event organizer who cited past church statements on abuse of spouses and children. Bakes also is a securities attorney and practicing Mormon.
The church has been promoting this session of the Fraud College in its widely distributed Church News.
Otterson "will address the importance of making all people, including members of religious organizations, aware of the dangers of affinity fraud," the LDS announcement said. It also linked online to past church pronouncements on fraud and investing dating back to 1982.
For example, in a 1986 article in the church magazine Ensign, Marvin J. Ashton, who was then a member of the church's Quorum of Twelve Apostles, said:
"Modern-day prophets have pled in plainness for us to avoid 'get-rich-quick' schemes if we would avoid the heartaches of financial bondage. Perhaps we have not said enough about the fact that too many of us, in our moments of dreaming of grandeur, plant the seeds of economic disaster."
The church has declined requests for interviews about affinity fraud among its members.
The public is invited to the Fraud College, a half day of seminars. talks and booths with information.
Speakers also include leaders of other faiths and Gov. Gary Herbert.
Schedule for Wednesday' conference
7:15 8:30 a.m. • Registration and check-in at Student Union Ballroom, University of Utah
8:30–9 a.m. • Welcome, kick-off and video, "Tips and Tricks of the Trade: Outsmarting Investment Fraud"
9-9:55 a.m. • Panel explores the red flags of fraud and scams. Moderator: Rodney Snow, president, Utah State Bar Association. Panelists: Jennifer Moore, Securities and Exchange Commission; Keith Woodwell, Utah State Division of Securities; James Malpede, FBI; Scott Thorley, U.S. Attorney's Office
9:45–10 a.m. • Presentation by Jennifer James of the Clyde Snow law firm and former trial counsel at the SEC, on "How to Avoid Becoming an Accidental Participant in a Fraud - The 'Friend and Family' Problem"
9:55-10 a.m. • Break
10-10:30 a.m. • Gov. Herbert speaks
Representatives from local/regional faith communities speak:
10:35-10:45 a.m. • Pastor Myke Crowder, Christian Life Center, Layton
10:45-11 a.m. • Rabbi Ilina Schwartzman
11-11:18 a.m. • Michael Otterson, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
11:20–Noon • Jerome Mayne, an ex-con, speaks on "Don't Get Caught Unprepared," about his experiences that led to a prison sentence for fraud.
Noon-12:10 p.m. • Wrap-up by master of ceremonies
12:15-2 p.m. • Post-event ,"Close-up Q&A" session with attendees and selected speakers.