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Former Miss Utah sues Provo over arrest and prosecution

Published: Friday, April 20 2012 12:45 p.m. MDT

PROVO — A former Miss Utah whose criminal case was thrown out of court is now suing Provo City claiming her arrest was not warranted.

Elizabeth Craig and Brady Harper have filed a multimillion dollar lawsuit in 3rd District Court against Provo and its police department claiming malicious prosecution and "torturous interference with prospective business relations."

In 2010, Craig, Harper and Scott Lazerson were charged with being engaged in a pattern of unlawful activity, theft by receiving stolen property, money laundering and trademark violations.

Craig and Harper were accused of illegally selling Nu Skin products on eBay that had been donated for charity to a company called Nu Lite, and pocketing the money.

But in December of 2010, a judge ruled during a preliminary hearing that prosecutors failed to meet the burden of proof needed for the case to proceed to trial and the charges against Craig and Harper were dropped.

The judge said there was "'not one bit of evidence' that the Nu Lite property had been stolen," according to the lawsuit.

The charge of theft by receiving stolen property against Lazerson was also thrown out. But he was ordered to stand trial on the three other charges. However, the money laundering and theft by deception charges were reduced to second-degree felonies. A jury trial on those charges is scheduled to begin in August.

The lawsuit contends that Nu Skin throws out millions of dollars worth of expired, overstocked, returned, mislabeled or damaged products every year. Lazerson, a former employee, reached an agreement with members of Nu Skin to have some of those products donated to his organization, Interface, so they could be handed out to the needy rather than be thrown away. "Many truckloads" of Nu Skin products were donated, according to court records.

Some products, however, such as exfoliating scrubs and high end beauty products, didn't seem appropriate to donate to the needy, the suit states. Such products "would have been entirely inappropriate to deliver to those in extreme poverty, who were concerned more with basic survival than, for example, applying an expensive exfoliating scrub to reduce age spots."

Instead of tossing out those products, Interface contracted with Nu Lite to have those products sold online. A portion of the proceeds raised by Nu Lite for selling those items  was then given back to Interface who used the money for other charitable work as well as operating expenses, the suit contends.

Nu Skin, however, became "alarmed" at the online sales. They contacted Provo police and directed them to the storage shed where Nu Lite was keeping its products. Nu Skin told officers that the products were stolen, according to the lawsuit. Investigators seized more than $1 million worth of products.

But Provo police "failed to adequately investigate and inquire regarding whether the product was stolen," according to court papers. "Provo City did not have probable cause to initiate the prosecution because it never possessed any evidence that the Nu Lite property had been stolen."

Craig and Harper were arrested and jailed following the search.

Because of Craig being a former Miss Utah, her case generated "substantial" media interest, according to her civil suit. She was subsequently dropped from future speaking engagements at BYU and Deseret Book stopped selling any products associated with her, according to court records.

After charges against Craig and Harper were dismissed, police did not return the products that had been seized, the suit contends. The products were returned to Nu Skin.

The suit seeks at least $5 million in damages for each party.

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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