A West Valley businessman accused of using the court system to commit fraud turned himself in to authorities Wednesday morning.
Richard F. Norris, 42, was charged last week with seven counts of communications fraud, a second-degree felony, in 4th District Court. Investigators allege that Norris signed advertising contracts with several Utah County subcontractors but intended to make money by suing them rather than providing ads.Norris was ordered Wednesday by Judge Anthony W. Schofield to allow himself to be booked at the Utah County Jail, although he was then to be released on his own recognizance. Schofield also ordered Norris not to continue collection efforts against alleged victims.
"His intention is basically to get them to default (on contracts) and then make money from suing them," said Assistant Utah Attorney General Jeffrey S. Gray.
One of Norris' alleged victims said she paid him $826.50 but didn't receive the ad brochures Norris promised. In addition, said Yvonne Rees of R&R Drywall in Orem, Norris sought to have items from her family's home sold at auction because he claimed she failed to comply with the contract.
"He never delivers what he promises," Yvonne Rasmussen, one of the alleged victims, said. "As long as he's not locked up, he will continue running his business and collecting money from people."
Last year, Norris was charged with 10 counts of communications fraud in 3rd District Court. Prosecutors allege that he defrauded numerous employees of his diet supplement marketing company, LaRoe International.
In 4th District Court, Norris faces allegations that he operated businesses under the names of Maxtron Corp., Norris Publishing, Alta Publishing, Santos International and United Investors Credit Services that defrauded seven companies who work with general contractor Bryce Nelson Construction of Orem.
Among the subcontractors are R&R Drywall, Eckles Paving, Young's Roofing, Durham Plumbing & Heating and SR Distributing.
Even though prosecutors allege that Norris hired several attorneys to help him commit the crimes, Norris told Schofield that he didn't have enough money to hire an attorney to assist in his defense. Schofield appointed a public defense attorney to represent Norris, despite Gray's objection.
Gray told the judge that Norris has even filed action in U.S. District Court against him and an investigator in the Attorney General's Office. Norris also hired a private attorney to challenge a search warrant executed at his home, Gray said.
According to court documents, Norris signed an agreement with Bryce Nelson to produce a publication that was to be paid for by subcontractors, a list of which Norris obtained from Nelson. Norris then approached subcontractors and signed contracts with them for ads in the publication.
Norris allegedly told the subcontractors that they didn't need to pay him until they saw ad proofs. However, according to a court affidavit, the promissory notes said nothing about ad proofs but instead included a provision that allowed Norris to get a court judgment against the subcontractors.