Utah Businessman Charged with $180 Million Ponzi Scheme

Both the Utah Attorney General’s office and the Securities and Exchange Commission have charged Val. E. Southwick of Ogden, Utah with bilking investors out of more than $180 million over a period of 17 years.

The SEC’s complaint, filed Feb. 6, alleges that Southwick operated a huge Ponzi scheme , using 150 companies to shuttle money from investors to pay bills or other investors.

Max Wheeler, Southwick’s attorney, said that his client will plead guilty to at least some of the stock fraud charges and will cooperate with authorities. Southwick, 62, had filed bankruptcy in May 2007 through VesCor Capital Inc., one of his companies.

The fraud case is one of the largest in Utah history. Southwick was under investigation by the Utah Attorney General and the SEC since at least 2006. Investigators allege that Southwick used his position as a leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon Church) to raise some $445 million from banks and both professional and private investors, and that he used some of that money to pay for his church tithing, his mortgage, and vacations.

The SEC complaint cites 817 creditors and investors from 20 states and three foreign countries. Southwick is alleged to have used the many interlocking companies as a means to move money around to pay existing noteholders, obligations and bills. He faces up to 15 years in prison for each of nine felony fraud counts.

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