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Utahn convicted in fraud scheme sent to jail, faces new charges

Marc Jenson failed to pay any of $4.1 million in restitution

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 23 2011 6:09 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — A Holladay man already convicted of fraud in Utah is now facing new charges in connection with a second alleged scheme, in which he touted, among other things, a Beaver County resort featuring a Jack Nicklaus golf course.

Marc Sessions Jenson, 51, and his brother, Stephen Roger Jenson, 46, were both charged Tuesday with four counts of communications fraud, three counts of money laundering, and one count of pattern of unlawful activity, all second-degree felonies. Stephen Jenson is facing three additional counts of second-degree felony money laundering.

Prosecutors with the Utah Attorney General's Office state that Marc Jenson, with the aid of his brother "and others," have devised as many as four different schemes with the goal of obtaining funds from investors which then "fail to materialize and the victims are left with millions of dollars in losses."

According to the charges filed Tuesday, the schemes include a ski resort in Beaver County, a real estate development project in Malibu, Calif., a wetlands preservation operation also based in Utah and "a loan to a local law firm for expenses pending completion of a civil suit against a pharmaceutical company that produced Fen-Phen."

One Colorado investor, Jeffrey Donner, told investigators that Marc Jenson approached him in 2007 about a proposed "Mount Holly Ski and Golf Resort" in Beaver County that would feature a Jack Nicklaus golf course and Olympic gold medalist, Ted Ligety, as a "ski director."

At a promotional event, Marc Jenson showed Donner a model of the resort and offered club membership for a price of $1.5 million. The man was told the other people at the event were already club members or potential club membership buyers.

"Later (Donner) found out through a source … that most of the individuals attending the promotional events were friends of Marc Jenson or people who were owed money by Marc Jenson," the charges state.

Marc Jenson and his brother failed to mention the local community opposition to the development of the resort property, the project's defaulted loans and pending financial issues and ongoing litigation brought on by Beaver County citizens, according to court documents.

Marc Jenson also failed to bring up the 12 months he spent in federal custody after pleading guilty to charges of making false statements to a financial institution and willful failure to file federal income tax returns in the early 1990s. Or the fact that he was charged with fraud, money laundering and sale of unregistered securities for similar crimes in 2005.

Marc Jenson also had an evidentiary hearing in the 2005 case Tuesday before 3rd District Judge Robin Reese. Because Jenson hasn't paid any of the $4.1 million restitution he was ordered to pay to two victims, the judge sent him to jail.

Jenson entered a plea in abeyance to three counts of sale of an unregistered security, a third-degree felony, in 2008. If he had paid the restitution and complied with other terms, the charges would have been dismissed.

He will be sentenced again on those charges Oct. 24.

The 2005 deal specifically allowed Marc Jenson to continue as a principal in a group trying to convert the old Elk Meadows ski resort near Beaver into the private Mt. Holly Club. But assistant attorney general Scott Reed told the Deseret News Tuesday that the agreement was made in May 2008 — months after the new alleged fraud was committed.

Last month, Donner sued Nicklaus in federal court claiming that, after the $3.5 billion project near Beaver went belly up, Nicklaus and his company, Jack Nicklaus Golf Club, took no responsibility for the debts and obligations incurred by the primary developer, Mount Holly Partners LLC.

In the alleged Mount Holly Resort scheme, one investor reported losing $261,000. Another took a loan against his home in the amount of $513,000. When investors later tried to withdraw their funds, they discovered the money had been transferred, the charges state.

Investigators said Marc and Stephen Jenson had 44 different bank accounts, including 12 that are "directly associated with the Mount Holly project." A total of nearly $2.8 million was ultimately collected in the name of the project, according to prosecutors.

"During the development term of these projects, Marc Jenson lives a lavish lifestyle, utilizing the funds from the project investments to rent and/or lease expensive homes; purchase exotic automobiles; take expensive vacations; provide monies to his wife … or to pay legal fees…," court documents state.

Jenson's previous case sparked controversy — first amid allegations that Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff filed the charges as a favor for a friend whose wife was a campaign contributor, then from victims who were dissatisfied with an initial plea deal that was rejected by Judge Reese for being too lenient.

Reed said the plea in abeyance agreement was made at the behest of investors, who hoped that Marc Jenson would make good on his promises to repay what they lost.

"It's been an excruciating journey for the victims," Reed said. "(Jenson paid) not a penny, not a nickel, not a bad check. He thumbed his nose at them. … It's just been egregious and unspeakable."

In the meantime, he said MArc Jenson has been living in homes in Idaho and California that are valued in the millions of dollars and staying for months at a time in hotels with $900-a-night price tags.

"So, saying he doesn't have very much money doesn't strike a chord for me in the least," Reed said.

The prosecutor has been disappointed with Jenson and his behavior in the prior case "from the get-go" and declined to go into detail on the new case, but said the court documents largely "speak for themselves." He noted that the judge in the new case  must have agreed, because he issued a no bail warrant.

When he is sentenced in the 2005 case, Jenson could face up to five years in prison on each of the three counts.

"I imagine we'll ask for a lengthy term of incarceration," Reed said.

Marc Jenson's defense attorney, Greg Skordas, said his client is a victim of the economy — especially the housing market — and would have sold property to repay investors if the market would have been better.

"Housing and property values plummeted and people suffered and investors suffered and Marc's done the best he can to make it right," Skordas said. "There are a lot of unforeseen circumstances."

He said he and his client were "blindsided" by the new charges, especially considering the fact that they include activity from 2007 and 2008.

"It's not new conduct — there's nothing in the new charges from the last two years," Skordas said.

As for the order to put Marc Jenson in jail pending sentencing, Skordas said Reese made the decision after an attempt on his client's part to sell a home in Idaho fell through.

"I know Marc thought he was doing the best he could to make the restitution," Skordas said.

E-mail: emorgan@desnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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