SALT LAKE CITY — A former Utah County commissioner and a businessman whose company was once named Utah County Business of the Year were each charged Monday with communications fraud for allegedly posing as LDS Church leaders to defraud a construction company out of $1.2 million.
The Utah Attorney General's Office filed the criminal charges in 3rd District Court against former Commissioner Gary Jay Anderson, 68, of Springville, and Alan Dean McKee, 56, of Benjamin. Each is charged with three counts of communications fraud and one count of engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity.
All four charges are second-degree felonies that each carry potential penalties of one to 15 years in prison.
Both are accused of impersonating officials within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in an apparent effort to get Ames Construction to invest in a large industrial park in Elberta, Utah County, called the Tintic Rail Line.
"McKee and Anderson are also alleged to have induced two victims to invest in a scheme to purchase excess farm equipment," according to the Utah Attorney General's Office.
McKee is accused of using letterhead that appeared to be from the LDS Church and Suburban Land Reserve, a real estate development arm of the church, and sending three letters and one email between approximately June 2011 and December 2013 pretending to be a church official saying he supported McKee's Tintic Rail Line Project.
"The purpose of the letters was to demonstrate LDS Church support of McKee's role in the new industrial project," according to charging documents. "The letters praised the work done by McKee on the Tintic Rail Line project to date."
McKee hoped the letters would prompt Ames to invest "a large sum of money" into the project," the charges state.
"One of the letters was allegedly written and signed by Bishop Gary E. Stevenson, former presiding bishop of the LDS Church and current member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles," charging documents state. "(Elder) Stevenson confirmed through LDS legal counsel that the letter he purportedly signed was a forgery as well."
The charges accuse Anderson of posing as then-Bishop Stevenson, assuring them that the LDS Church was behind the project.
LDS Church spokesman Eric Hawkins released a prepared statement Monday regarding the charges.
"Two individuals have been charged with fraud for claiming to be or represent (former) Bishop Gary E. Stevenson during their business dealings. Elder Stevenson was serving as the presiding bishop of the church at that time. He does not know these individuals, has never spoken with them, and was completely unaware of their activities," Hawkins said in the statement.
"The church alerted authorities as soon as it learned of the matter, and Elder Stevenson has provided a statement to prosecutors confirming he was not involved in this brazen scheme, which attempted to misuse the good name of the church and the office of the presiding bishop," Hawkins said.
"Based on the letters and verbal promises made by McKee, the emails by McKee posing as 'Eric Peling,' and the phone call to (Ames) by Anderson posing as 'Gary Stevenson,' Ames Construction spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for preparation and engineering for the Tintic Rail Line Project," according to the charges.
Anderson was a longtime Utah County commissioner and a current defense attorney. He was commissioner from 1983 to 1986 and was elected again in 2006 and served until 2014.
Attempts to reach Anderson Monday were not successful.
McKee is the owner of Ophir Minerals and Aggregate LLC, which was named Utah County Business of the Year in 2011.