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SALT LAKE CITY -- A federal grand jury returned an indictment Tuesday against a well-known businessman in Utah County. Rick Koerber, a familiar face on billboards, calling himself the Free Capitalist, was accused of running a Ponzi scheme.
Now he faces federal charges of mail fraud, wire fraud and tax evasion. It's a case prosecutors say defrauded investors out of at least $50 million
Brett Tolman, United States Attorney for Utah, said, "Mr. Koerber operated Founders Capital and other related entities as a Ponzi scheme to convince earlier investors their funds were earning money and to convince potential investors that the program was working and earning money."
The indictment is not a surprise for Koerber. Last month he blogged about business failures becoming criminalized by the government and wrote: "I'm sure it's only more likely that I'll eventually be indicted as I continue to criticize the government, government employees, the lazy government PR media, and now complicit lawyers."
Koerber liked to use the phrase "annoy the socialists" and calls himself "A Capitalist, a Mormon and a Dad," which prosecutors say he used to attract new investment money to help the scheme survive as the economy struggled.
Tolman said, "The more competition there is for the investment money, the greater the activity and the marketing and the willingness to go to great lengths to get and acquire investment money."
Prosecutors accuse Koerber of using investor funds for personal use, spending $1 million on expensive automobiles and more than $5 million on making movies, which apparently never hit theaters.
By phone, Koerber told KSL he was disappointed by the indictment but looked forward to defending himself in court.
If he is convicted, he faces up to 45 years in federal prison.