Alpine man accused in investment scam

By Cimaron Neugebauer

Deseret News

Published: Thursday, May 28 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

A federal grand jury has returned a three-count indictment against an Alpine man.

Claud R. Koerber, better known as Rick Koerber, 36, was charged Tuesday with mail fraud, wire fraud and tax evasion in an alleged Ponzi scheme spanning from 2004 to 2008.

"We stand before you today in a situation that has become all too familiar, where the house of cards falls and investors are the victims," Tim Fuhrman, FBI agent in charge of the Salt Lake office, said during a news conference Tuesday. "We will spare no effort in exposing these kinds of acts."

Koerber was involved with several businesses in Utah, including Founders Capital, Franklin Squires Investments and Franklin Squires Companies. The indictment accuses Koerber of devising a scheme for obtaining money and property "by means of false and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises."

The indictment alleges Koerber created and presented a series of seminars designed to encourage individuals to make money through a real estate program that he named the "Equity Mill." Prosecutors say Koerber communicated misrepresentations through various means, including his seminars, phone calls, mailings, radio programs, Web sites and advertisements.

The indictment accuses Koerber of usingmoney to make bridge loans, and interest payments were used as "Ponzi payments." The indictment states the investment scheme took in about $100 million in investor funds, and more than $50 million was used to make Ponzi payments. Other investor money was allegedly used for personal ventures.

At no time during the scheme, according to the indictment, did the Founders Capital or Franklin Squires entities make a profit.

Koerber used investor funds for personal housing, and more than $1 million was spent on expensive automobiles and $850,000 on investments in restaurants, the indictment states.

"White-collar fraud is alive and well in Utah," said Francine Giani, executive director of the state Department of Commerce.

Giani warned the public to "keep your eyes open and educate yourselves" on these forms of fraud.

She condemned these sorts of acts and said the use of religion, politics or positions of trust to promote business ventures is inappropriate.

If convicted, Koerber faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000 for each charge of mail fraud and wire fraud. Investigators say Koerber also owed more than $250,000 in federal taxes. The maximum penalty for tax evasion is up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

A summons will be issued to Koerber to appear in federal court.

E-mail: cneugebauer@desnews.com

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