New Utah laws target those who use religion, affinity to prey on victims

Published: Thursday, April 28 2011 5:39 p.m. MDT

LuElla Day speaking at the bill affinity fraud bill signing Thursday, April 28, 2011. Utah Gov. Herbert, left, and bill sponsor Ben McAdams, D-Salt Lake City, right, look on. Day was bilked out of nearly $1.3 million by an investment scammer she met at church.

Ashlee Buchholz, Utah Governor Office

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SALT LAKE CITY — LuElla Day is a woman of courage and strong faith.

It was that bravery that has allowed her to endure countless interviews from numerous media outlets as well as stand before a microphone telling her story of how she was bilked out of more than $1 million by someone who preyed on her profound religious faith.

The con man, now serving a sentence in the Utah State Prison, had given a talk at her LDS ward and approached her after she had received a hefty sum for some property she had sold.

"He claimed that he was a financial adviser and even told me the bishop had told him that he should help me," the former Highland resident told an audience in the Gold Room of the Utah state Capitol. It turned out that the man, whom she had known for four years, eventually scammed the 81-year old out of nearly $1.3 million.

Cases like Day's prompted the state Legislature to create laws that would punish con artists who specifically target victims of affinity fraud. Affinity fraud includes investment scams that prey upon members of identifiable groups, such as religious or ethnic communities, the elderly or professional groups.

The governor signed three bills on Thursday that focused on securities scams — SB100, Securities Fraud Reporting Program Act; SB101, Affinity Fraud; and SB151, Real Estate Transactions and Securities. Each of the bills was passed by both the House and Senate during the 2011 legislative session.  

“Affinity fraud negatively impacts the lives of many Utahns who have lost their nest eggs to unscrupulous individuals who use relationships of trust to take what is not theirs,” said Gov. Gary Herbert. “I am proud to sign these three bills to protect more Utah investors from these selfish and cowardly acts.”

Utah County resident Kaylene — who lost $35,000 to an affinity scammer who also preyed on her LDS faith — said she hoped the new laws create stiffer penalties for criminals who take advantage of those who are vulnerable.

"He used religious (ideals) against me," said Kaylene, who did not want her last name used. "He told me that he was guided by the spirit and said he was the financial rescuer of people (in need)."

Preventing that kind of criminal behavior is exactly what the new laws are meant to address, said the bills' sponsor.

“Investment fraud has hurt too many families and made too many headlines over the past seven years where enforcement agencies saw a record $1.4 billion dollars lost to fraud," said Sen. Ben McAdams, D-Salt Lake City. “These new laws will strengthen the penalties against affinity fraud and encourage more witnesses to come forward to help our securities investigators fight the fraud which has left vulnerable seniors penniless and tarnished our state’s good name.”

For more information on investment fraud, contact the Utah Division of Securities at 801-530.6600, 800-721-7233 or online at www.securities.utah.gov

E-mail: jlee@desnews.com

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