I think Kyle clearly regrets the trouble he's made for other people, and he's taking steps to make things right. —Defense attorney Stephen Howard

VERNAL — An award-winning real estate broker known to many in the Uintah Basin as the public face of a major retail development project has pleaded guilty to forging federal termite inspection records and other documents.

Kyle David Ashworth pleaded guilty Wednesday in 8th District Court to seven counts of forgery and six counts of communications fraud. He also entered no-contest pleas to one count of forgery and one count of communications fraud. The charges are all third-degree felonies.

Ashworth, 31, forged the signatures of developers Scott Gardner and Rulon Gardner, as well as the signature of the owner of Omega Pest Control on documents that were sent to mortgage lenders to obtain loans for prospective buyers, according to court records filed as part of his guilty plea.

"I think Kyle clearly regrets the trouble he's made for other people, and he's taking steps to make things right," defense attorney Stephen Howard said Thursday.

Ashworth's criminal conduct took place between February 2011 and September 2012, according to Vernal police, who investigated the case along with the inspector general's office for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"These were clear forgeries," Assistant Vernal Police Chief Keith Campbell said when Ashworth was charged in May. "The people whose names were signed had no idea he was signing their names."

Ashworth was named Coldwell Banker's top sales agent in 2012 for its affiliate offices in Utah. He is also a recipient of the Uintah Basin Board of Realtors Presidential Award.

For more than a year, Ashworth has been the public face in the Uintah Basin of the Vernal Towne Center. The 26-acre retail project is being built by Gardner Development, the same firm behind The Gateway in Salt Lake City.

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Court records, however, show the forgeries Ashworth committed were all related to residential properties. None of the homes have experienced problems with termites, and all have now undergone "appropriate termite treatment," according to Ashworth's attorney.

In exchange for Ashworth's plea, a judge dismissed 38 other felony charges at the prosecution's request. Prosecutors also agreed not to recommend prison time when Ashworth is sentenced Oct. 8.

Email: gliesik@deseretnews.com

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