A former Ogden bank officer sent $675,000 - and may have sent as much as $1.8 million - of his bank's money to the 46 players of the short-lived San Antonio Gunslingers, a professional football team that folded in 1985.
The twisted tale of $2 million missing from the coffers of the former Commercial Security Bank in Ogden unfolded in U.S. District Judge David Winder's court this week during the trial of Jerald N. Engstrom, former vice president and general counsel to the bank.Engstrom is charged with misapplying the $2 million during May and June of 1985.
According to federal charges, Engstrom wired $1.8 million to a business associate and accounts in three Texas banks over a 15-day period in the early summer of 1985. Engstrom wired $375,000 to Frost Bank in San Antonio, Texas, on May 22, 1985; $150,000 to First City Bank in Corpus Christi, Texas, on May 28, 1985 and $625,000 to First National Bank in San Antonio on June 3, 1985.
On June 7, 1985, he wired $675,000 to business associate Ed Harper. That money ended up in the State Bank of La Vernia, in La Vernia, Texas, and was used "to pay the payroll for a professional football team," the government's brief said. The team was the San Antonio Gunslingers, a member of the United States Football League.
All of the money transferred to the Texas banks - $1.825 million - may have gone to fund the team. "All of the money essentially went to Clinton Mangus," said Randy Richards, Engstrom's attorney.
Mangus owned the Gunslingers.
Engstrom is also charged with making an unrelated transfer of $256,712 to the trustees of the bankrupt IML Freight Co. as earnest money for another company's purchase of IML. The transfers to Texas and Harper were supposed to go toward the purchase of some Texas oil interests by a company called Meggs, Inc.
Harper was a key player in both deals. He was an officer in Meggs and an instigator of the IML deal. In both deals, Harper promised to send Engstrom's bank checks for specified amounts if Engstrom would wire the same amount of money to accounts specified by Harper.
Engstrom testified at his trial that he did just that, wiring money from CSB in ex change for checks made out to the bank by Harper for the same amount.
However, all of Harper's checks bounced, forcing CSB to cover the $2 million Engstrom transferred out of the bank. Harper's company, Meggs, Inc., later acknowledged in writing to CSB that it owed the bank $2,081,712.67.
The $2 million never bought the IML or any oil interest in Texas. But it may have kept prolonged the life of the ill-fated Gunslingers.
Six weeks after Engstrom's final transfer, the team died. On July 22, 1985, the team's front office announced that all players were being released by the team because Mangus could no longer pay them. A brief item in the Deseret News the next day said Mangus failed to pay his players for two consecutive pay periods. The players' arbitrator gave Mangus a July 22 deadline for coming up with the overdue pay. He failed to meet it.
Whether all $1.8 million that ended up in Mangus' pocket went to the Gunslingers is one of two mysteries that permeate Engstrom's trial. The second mystery is why the U.S. attorney's office waited five years after the FBI recommended it prosecute the case before doing so. (See related story.)
The federal government argues that Engstrom was in cahoots with Harper and others to misapply bank funds. His lawyers argue that Engstrom was naive in believing Harper and his partner, Jay E. Olsen, when the two men assured Engstrom Harper's checks were good. His chief error was failing to check Harper's account for sufficient funds before wiring money to him.
Neither Harper nor Olsen has been charged in the incident.