Judge orders assets frozen in fraud investigation

Judge orders assets frozen in fraud investigation

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PROVO, Utah (AP) -- A judge has issued an order freezing $2.3 million in real estate, cars and other assets as part of an investigation into an alleged $59 million Ponzi scheme.

The move by 4th District Judge Fred Howard is an unusual, pre-emptive strike. Typically courts don't order asset seizure until after criminal charges are filed or a conviction is secured.

The Utah County attorneys office sought the seizure to prevent the assets from being sold off or hidden as the investigation continues, chief investigator Jeff Robinson said.

"This will be one of the bigger ones," Robinson said. "At this point, we have the documentation. Because there are hundreds of victims, we're still trying to catch up on those, and it's so big."

An affidavit filed with the court Sept. 30 names five people being investigated for securities fraud: Larry O. Bosh, of St. George; D. Shawn Benson, of Ivins, Washington County; Michael Smith, of Mona, Juab County; David Q. Poulsen, of Salem, Utah County; and Gale Robinson, of San Jacinto, Calif.

No charges have been filed.

In the affidavit, however, prosecutors contend that Bosh set up the company Evolution Development in 2007 to raise funds for the investment arm of a payday loan company, Money & More, which has branches in California. Gale Robinson is the founder and president of Money & More.

Investigators believe Bosh, Benson and Smith offered 10 percent monthly returns to middlemen such as Poulsen, who allegedly recruited more investors.

The plan ultimately generated $59 million from investors, but payouts stopped in November 2008, leading to lawsuits and the investigation, court papers say.

About 90 percent of those allegedly suffering losses are Utah County residents, according to investigators.

Among the assets listed in Howard's order are at least seven luxury cars and sport utility vehicles, seven homes and property in Juab and Washington County.

Bosh declined a Desert News inquiry seeking comment on the investigation, but said he believes ongoing legal proceedings will "clear the air."

Poulsen referred questions from the newspaper to his uncle, attorney Mark Poulsen, who said his nephew was innocently caught up in a scam. And Gale Robinson did not respond to an e-mail message from the paper.

Smith could not be reached for comment. He is serving a 36-month sentence in a Colorado prison after a 2008 conviction on federal charges including tax evasion.

No telephone listing could be found for Benson in Ivins by The Associated Press on Sunday.


Information from: Deseret News

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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