Seven officials of a local multilevel marketing company appeared in 4th Circuit Court on Tuesday to hear charges against them for allegedly operating a pyramid scheme.
The Utah County attorney's office filed charges March 21 against seven officials of Family Star for operating a pyramid scheme, a third-degree felony. The company is under an injunction issued by 4th District Judge Ray M. Harding that prevents it from operating until a civil suit against the company is resolved.Sally Ann Hall, 45, Pleasant Grove, is charged with five counts; Rulea Brooksby, 43, American Fork, four counts; Vickie Rupp, 39, Highland, five counts; J. Blaine Rupp, 45, Highland, two counts; Matthew J. Peterson, 36, American Fork, four counts; Neda Peterson, 33, American Fork, five counts; and Gary Ford, 43, Mapleton, one count.
Appearing before Judge Joseph I. Dimick, all seven requested a preliminary hearing. Four of the defendants, Hall, Brooksby and the Rupps, told Dimick that they want to represent themselves. Mark Stringer will represent the Petersons, and Ford will be represented by a public defender.
Another defendant, Lynn Waite, 45, Meridian, Idaho, appeared earlier and has a waiver hearing scheduled for April 24.
Dimick said he will schedule a separate preliminary hearing for each defendant. Deputy County Attorney Jim Taylor said the preliminary hearings should take about two hours and the evidence will be the same for each defendant.The charges stem from meetings the defendants allegedly had with clients on Jan. 29 and 30 and Feb. 2, 5 and 6. If found guilty, the seven could be sentenced to up to five years in prison and fined $5,000 on each count.
State investigators say Family Star officials were selling a newsletter for $19.95 that allowed investors to sell the letter to other investors. Investigators say more than 2,000 local residents invested in the company thinking they could make as much as $50,000.
Family Star officials say the company offered legitimate products and was shut down during its organizational stage. The products offered by the company included computers, cleaning products and health aids.