LEHI Bill Freeland's hand shakes as he pours Pepsi into a glass full of ice. His wife, Judy, is flipping through a small mountain of binders and folders piled on the kitchen table. She stops and runs her finger down a receipt.
The Freelands have until Nov. 19 until the bank starts the foreclosure process on their Lehi home. But they have no way to pay. They are being crushed by a $225,000 loan at 13 percent interest a loan that should have been paid off from promised stock returns.
But their investments never even made it to Wall Street.
Instead, the Freelands believe their money was funneled away from stocks into the pocket of their "broker."
"It'd be better if he said, 'I lost your money, I'm sorry,'" Bill says, shaking his head and looking down at his glass of soda.
Bill, 59, used to be a big-game hunter, and his antlered trophies adorn the den where framed pictures of his trips hang.
When he gets up to answer the phone, he walks slowly, with a limp. But each visitor to the home is greeted with a handshake and offered a Pepsi.
Freeland was diagnosed in November 1997 with an inoperable brain tumor, after he collapsed one day after work and was unconscious for four days.
That's when the financial stress set in. Judy, 54, knew she had to start looking for money elsewhere, knowing Bill couldn't be a general contractor much longer.
"(Doctors said) with a full dose of radiation in 1997 that would buy him 10 years," Judy said. "Last month was 10 years."
A friend had been investing in stocks and commodities and seemed to be doing well so Judy arranged a meeting with the broker, Newton A. Taylor.
Every Thursday the couple met with Taylor, who they saw as a kind, devoted-to-family man, listening intently as he shared tips, recommended books and taught them to read the stock market.
"I looked into the system to find anything negative on him," Judy said. "We couldn't find anything on him. It seemed a good thing to do."
So, the Freelands invested $8,000 in June 2003. And when everything was looking good, they took out a $225,000 loan against their paid-off, 12-acre parcel of prime Lehi land, paid off a few debts and invested another $205,000.
Monthly returns of $6,000 began flowing in June 2004. But a year later when the Freelands asked that Taylor cash out all their investment so they could pay off the high-interest loan and get something lower, "that's when it all went to pot," Judy said.
She said Taylor told them different stories each time she asked about their investments. First, their money was delayed because a bank was clearing the funds through the IRS. Or that Taylor's broker was transferring more money and had to verify it through other brokers all less-than-believable stories, Judy said
"This guy is something ... " says Bill, shaking his head and trailing off. He stares down at his drink again. A biopsy on the tumor has affected his speech and short-term memory.
Judy said she e-mailed a complaint to the Utah Division of Securities in March 2006, which recommended prosecutors file criminal charges. The division also confirmed that Taylor never had a securities license.
In talking with several attorneys, Judy also learned that Taylor faced similar charges in 4th District Court and in 1996 pleaded no contest to communications fraud. Nineteen other communication fraud and theft by deception charges were dismissed.
Taylor was sentenced to one to 15 years in the Utah State Prison and ordered to pay more than $260,000 in restitution to the McGuire family, according to court records.
Taylor served a short time in prison and was released long before 15 years was up.
Taylor had promised Bernie McGuire, a quadriplegic from a traffic accident, monstrous returns through gold and silver mining operations but never delivered.
"Yes, I was stupid," Judy admits. "But I did whatever I could to find out on this guy."
But Bill interrupts her and says that no, she did her homework. She just didn't look everywhere.
"If people call us, hopefully we'll be able to find more skeletons than they can find on their own," said Wayne Klein, director of Utah Division of Securities.
His office prosecutes more than 100 people each year for securities fraud, and in 43 percent of those cases, one or more of the promoters had a prior conviction.
"Here's the problem that creates," Klein said. "How do I deter people for whom jail isn't a deterrent?"
Taylor faces 19 additional charges of communication fraud and one charge of theft in 4th District Court all stemming from alleged actions with the Freelands and two other families who allege he defrauded them. An entry of plea is set for Dec. 14.
"At this point we're working toward a resolution, and we hope to have that happening shortly," said Taylor's attorney John Easton.
Despite several returns, Taylor still owes the couple $185,000 and several thousands to the two other victims.
"We really want to ... make the victims as whole as we can, and (we want to) protect the public," Deputy Utah County Attorney Chad Grunander said. "It's difficult to try and stop someone because when someone's out duping people, they could just do it again. You can't have someone watching them 24/7 to stop it."
Back in the kitchen, Judy closes her books and walks outside to look over the acreage they lost to the bank in May when they couldn't make the loan payments.
She smooths down her graying hair as she looks back at the house she and Bill built in 1982. It's where they raised their five children and where their children still come to ride horses.
Three of her children are rodeo champs; saddles adorn the entry way and belt buckles glitter in a curio cabinet.
"I didn't want to make a million or to change my lifestyle, it was to save ... income that I could foresee we (would) need," Judy said.
Now, she hopes to get a loan to pay six months of her mortgage and health insurance and buy a used dump truck to start working as a dump truck driver.
"I should be here teaching (my grandkids) how to ride a horse, not becoming a trucking grandma," she said.
But she'll do what she has to do."(Taylor) has said he would pay us back and make us whole," she said. "We'll never get back our stuff. We (just) want his name out so he can never hurt somebody else."
Too good to be true?
The Utah Division of Securities reminds potential investors to ask three questions before investing with anyone:
• Is the person licensed with the Division of Securities?
• Is the offering registered?
• Are they providing written disclosures about the investment and financial statements? Is there a record about his or her past performance with other customers?
If the answer to any of those questions is no, that's a big red flag.Remember: Call the division to get answers to those questions: 1-801-530-6600.
Source: Wayne Klein, director of the Utah Division of Securities.
E-mail: [email protected]